Justice – Love our City – Micah 6

The Old Testament book Micah highlights a positioning of the heart. At the time Israel was made up of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The lifestyle of those in the Northern Kingdom was blatantly not in pursuit of God and whereas those in the Southern Kingdom were hiding behind their religious practices. It has been described by some as a time where “selfish materialism and a religious complacency led to the disintegration of social justice” (S.R Johnson).

In Micah 6 verses 6 to 7 we find those from the Southern Kingdom asking what God requires of them, listing of sacrifices of varying degrees and increasing in intensity to the point of child sacrifice. Some indicate this reflects their hardened hearts who would have known child sacrifice to be abhorrent to God. Their question assumes that the problem was with God and that some external actions would shift His attitude towards them. 

We see a parallel in these scriptures to our present where we can be consumed with doing what is seen to be right yet still find, that in all our activity and busyness, our hearts are not singular in our pursuit of God and what He requires of us.

Micah 6 verse 8 provides God’s answer: “He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you. Except to be just, and to love [and diligently practice] kindness (compassion). And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of important or self-righteousness]?” [AMP].

It is upon this verse that the three pillars of Love Our City are based:

  • Do Justice

I believe that there is some significance in the order that the requirements are presented. By starting with acting justly there is an emphasis on action, moving away from justice as some philosophical ideal to be upheld. The more we are out in the world amongst those in the unjust spaces, the more our hearts are awakened to compassion. 

  • Love Mercy

Other versions of Micah 6:8 speak of loving “kindness” or “compassion”. For me these words: mercy, kindness and compassion in the context of our day and age conjure up a sense of “niceness”. However, the reality of the biblical basis of this is that they are deeply emotional and far from superficial. Mercy is showing compassion or forgiveness to someone when they deserve to be punished. Being “nice” in this sense is not weak or timid, it is immensely courageous. This pillar speaks to the heart with which we do justice.

  • Walk Humbly [with your God]

It is pertinent to note that the scripture talks of our walk with God which speaks to our position before God; our Christian walk. It is He who knows the motives of our heart and He who offers to tend to it to bring about fruit. James advises “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. … In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life” [MSG].

In the area of justice particularly in our country which is marked with complex power dynamics and a history of racism which stripped generations of people of their dignity, it is of vital importance that we walk humbly – particularly in relation to doing justice. 

Humility speaks to our demeanor and is quite the opposite spirit of many operating in the area of social justice in current times. This area has been tarnished by a rage and anger, which may be justified, but does not make way for unity and does not reflect the righteousness that sets us apart from the world. As James 1 poignantly frames it – God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.

To walk humbly with God in the area of justice is to live out Matthew 6, “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. …When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out” [MSG]. 

The significance therefore is for us to move past doing what looks right, managing the outward appearance and other’s impressions, to living a life where we act justly, compelled by compassion, mercy and kindness and upholding the dignity of others.

By Tarryn Jansen van Vuuren