As the story goes in the book of Micah, the people paid lip service to God; their connection with Him was little more than ceremonial. They visited the temple, went through the motions, offered the sacrifices, did all the things, but left their hearts at home.
Have you ever lived like that?
It's easy to slip into “life-by-numbers” and live like you’re checking things off on a list.
Bins out? Check.
Sunday Church? Check.
Cook dinner? Check…
Be a good Christian? Check.
Don't rock the boat? Check.
That's how Israel was living. Their devotion wasn’t going into their relationship with the divine, it was leaking into more destructive patterns of behaviour. They thought God wouldn’t notice their lack of devotion if the practical requirements of sacrifice (all the boxes checked) were met. After all, that's how all the other gods of their day and age were appeased: sacrifice and good works.
“Every person has the right to experience God’s grace and love, and our just cause should be to show it to them.”
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Micah 6:6-7 (MSG) says, “Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin?”
But YHWH was/is a different kind of God. Fluid. Spirit. Water and air, fire and earth. Involved, present and available. Micah tells us earlier in this chapter of his book that God listed the things He’d done for the people of Israel. And He wasn’t angry – we read it that way because we think we're meant to. But the Divine was reminding them of HIS devotion to them. He was fully invested and present in them and with them.
Maybe his heart sounded something like this: This is how to live… “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with me.”
It’s in justice, mercy, and humility where we see God most clearly, it's where we see “life” most clearly, too.
Justice as a word means “judgment, a legal decision rendered; as a state or condition of fairness in disputes.” It also includes the sense that each person has ‘rights.' And rights dictate the flow of justice, right?
“Rights” are a hot issue, they always have been. In our dualistic view of the world – us verses them – where scarcity rules and we live like there is not enough love, hope, justice, freedom to go around everyone, we gain rights by controlling the rights of others. God does not take away our rights; he wants us free to live within them.
Our right to experience love and belonging.
Our right to forgive and be forgiven.
Our right as sons and daughters, carriers of the Divine Spirit, to receive and give grace.
Our right to have faith in ourselves, others and God.
Our right to love our enemy and neighbour alike.
Our right to love ourselves and enjoy our lives…
Through the lens of redemption (which was present in the OT… it’s an ongoing narrative that climaxed with Jesus), the dispute over whether or not people could be accepted by God never fell on their performance, behaviour, or birth. God’s spirit is always here, our level of awareness heightens and dissipates according to our willingness to listen and see.
God’s justice looks a little like, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
(Side Note: I know there are references in the Biblical Text that talk about God’s vengeance, and there are stories of his violent acts against humanity. We’ll attempt to speak about this in the coming months. Until then, feel free to comment us your thoughts about it to below).
Every person has the right to experience God’s grace and love, and our just cause should be to show it to them.
Written by Liz Milani