Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Justice, Mercy, and Humility

It's spring break, which means I have a least as much homework to do as I would if it wasn't spring break...d'oh. Two chapters to read for one class , 140+ pages for another, two chapters for an online class that starts on Monday, discussion board postings,  a 6 to 8 page mid-term exam to's already Wednesday, I guess should get working on this stuff.

In one of my classes the discussion board assignment for the week is to read the prophetic text of Micah 6:8. We are supposed to use our imagination to write a short essay on what our church/community or institution might be like if this text were its motto.

Here is Micah 6:8 in parallel:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously. (MSG)

My thoughts on Justice, Mercy, and Humility

What would my church look like if Micah 6:8 was its motto?

A church where people do justice, act justly, do what is right, and do what is fair and just would be a church where those who are poor, oppressed, and/or wronged not only feel welcome, but feel like they have a purpose. A church where the needs of others come before our own needs. A church where those who have wronged and/or oppressed are welcomed, too (see mercy, kindness, and compassion)--a community of forgiveness and healing.

A church where people love kindness, love mercy, and are compassionate and loyal would be a church where a person's wrongs are not held against them. Instead they would feel compelled, by love and forgiveness, to right whatever wrongs they can. It would be a church where those who feel lost feel found. It would be a church where those who feel unloved would feel true love, God's love, through God's people. It would be a place where unkind words have no place. A church where correction is offered with gentleness and respect, saving judgement for God.

A church where people walk humbly with their God and take God seriously would be a church where people are encouraged to live a life of trusting God instead of trying to please God. It would be a church that understands that we approach the grace of the cross with nothing to offer but our brokenness; there is nothing we can do or say to make God love us more than He already does. It would be a church where people understand their brokenness--mental, physical, and spiritual--and know that God's greatest desire is that we offer that brokenness to Him so that He can make us whole and His glory will shine through His people.

What would my church look like if Micah 6:8 was its motto? Not just as a motto but the philosophy of lifestyle behind every thought and action of the members of the church? I think it would be a place that people would flock to in droves.

Humility is also about acknowledging that these are MY thoughts on the passage. That doesn't mean they are your thoughts.

The more I learn about the Bible, faith, and my God the less complex I want my faith to be (and the less I seem to know.) Instead of coming up with lists of do's and don'ts, I'm trying to learn to ask myself a more simple question: Does this bring glory to God? If the answer is no, don't do it. If the answer is yes, do it with justice, mercy, and humility.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Side Note

There is still snow on the north facing roof of my well insulated house. My yard is covered in a blanket a couple inches deep. It's 42 degrees outside. Technically, spring is still almost two weeks away...but for me, today is THE day.

It's sunny, a warm the earth kind of sunny.
People are driving around with their windows down; some just a crack, others all the way down.
A few brave souls are out in shorts and t-shirts (it's how some of us roll.)
Drivers are willing to wait in line for 30 minutes, or more, for a trip through the car wash.

For me, today is the first day that Spring really seems like a coming reality. Today has the emotional impact of the scene in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when meadow gets slushy, the green and colorful things start poking up through the snow, and the animals all realize...ASLAN IS BACK!

The world feels different today...better...more alive...fresher. It's that day when you want to open all your windows and doors but the small voice in the back of your head assures you that it's not quite time for that yet...but soon!

It's the day when those of us who have spent our lives in the "snowbelt" realize that there's probably one more big snow storm left, probably on Easter weekend, but it won't stay long and it will signify that Winter's back is broken and life will be oozing out all around us for the next few weeks.

Yes, today is that day, for me, here in Jackson, Michigan. If you're in the "snowbelt" I hope you have that day soon, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It's 10:45PM, I stumble into my domicile half asleep but excited. Tonight was one of those nights that education comes alive. I had class, REL304 Genesis: Creation and Fall, from 6:30PM to 9:30PM. Most weeks the professor is lucky if he can hold the attention of the whole class through 9:00PM; tonight we stayed right up until was wonderful (says the annoying "non-trad").

Religion 304 focuses on Genesis, chapters 1 through 3. Tonight was the first night that it felt like we were truly getting into a moment of wrestling with God as a group. We've had a few good classroom discussions prior to this, but nothing this in-depth or thought provoking. Have you read through the first three chapters of the Bible lately? In one sitting? I've done it about a dozen times this year...and each time it gets more confusing and produces even more questions.

What got me excited tonight was when one of the young men in my class--I can use the phrase young man because he's probably 20+ years younger than I am--asked, amidst the quiet chaos of our discussion, the kind of question that I've been waiting to hear. He wanted to know if it was possible that God would limit His own ability to see into the future in order to make sense of giving humankind free will? The question arose from reading the pericope and considering the idea that God created Adam and Eve KNOWING that they would choose to disobey. It's kind of like putting a big red button in front of a small child and telling them not to push do so knowing they will most likely push it, you have set them up to fail. The questions finally came back around to asking if God created mankind to fail on purpose? And if He did, doesn't that seem kind of mean? Lighting bolts did not rain down, but the wrestling match was on.

I might have had a problem with this 20 years ago; and, I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that there might have been apprehension on the part of some people in the room. After all, no one is taking this class as a general education elective. Most of us are in the process of earning some sort of ministry or theology major. Are we allowed to ask questions like this?

My response is an enthusiastic "YES!" tempered with the belief that we can only do so with the realization that we bring a question like this to God, and each other, with empty hands. We have nothing to offer to Him in return for understanding and insight. I'd like to say that we came up with a definitive answer to the question as a result of our discussion but we did not...and I think that's fine.

"What if God placed these paradoxes within the Scriptures to cause me to struggle for the truth? What if it is the struggle he desires as much as the truth itself? Could it be that the truth lies not in one of the seemingly opposed answers to the paradox, but in between them, within the paradox itself? Could it be that uncompromising stances on the paradoxical teachings of the Scriptures are foolishness, no matter how important the doctrine or belief in question, because such dogmatic posturing misses the point entirely? Could it be that the answer to these either/or questions of paradox is neither this nor that, but simply, "Yes"and "Yes"?" (Athol Dickson. Gospel according to Moses, The: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me about Jesus (p. 70). Kindle Edition.)

It felt great to get to a point in the conversation where we could look around the room and realize that maybe we don't have all the answers and, as long as we're here on this earth, we might not ever have them...and that is OK!

I'll admit it, I'm hoping for a few more classes like this. :)