Doing Justice with Humility: A Reading of Micah 6.8

Hey everyone, I'm sorry that I haven't posted in awhile. Things have gotten busy with schoolwork and my personal life. I'm hoping to become more regular with blogging now that I've gotten everything under control.

Over the past several weeks, I have started to notice some disturbances in the larger culture of American life. For those who are unaware, the past several months have featured truly appalling, puzzling, and interesting developments in the presidential race for 2016. In one party, over ten prospective candidates were introduced, have railed against some of the adopted and commonly accepted norms and practices of our culture such as growing support and advocacy for the rights of LGBTQIA persons, the right of women to make informed and sometimes necessary choices about their own bodies, and extra-judicial violence conducted by police on persons of color. Another party has argued who truly represents the American working class, the role that money plays in political systems, and historical voting records and their contradictions compared to contemporary stances.

In a political climate that is so often charged with vitriol, mistrust, deliberate misinformation, and personal attacks, where does that leave the common person? Despite what many seem to believe about one another, I would argue that all of us are relatively decent and moral people. We all live in a time marked by fear; we have lived through numerous eras of violence, insecurity, deception, corruption, and exile. Our lives are changing constantly and we crave and desire for a time that seems stagnant, a time that feels familiar, a time that gives us a feeling of being in control over our own destinies and lives.

As Christians, we desire to follow the path of Jesus in our own lives and recognize that salvific words, actions, and theologies of our Christian heritage. Despite claiming to believe in Jesus' actions, power, and words, it appears that many of us have become drunk on the empty promises of American life; in our pursuit of the disappearing American dream, we have come to respect individuality over community, wealth of pocket over the wealth of spirit, pulling others down instead of lifting one another up, and so on. In many ways, we have become the antithesis of Jesus of Nazareth in our pursuit of the blasphemy of American Christianity.

Our reading for today is chapter six, verse eight from the book of Micah; the eponymous prophet lived and practiced his work during the 8th and 7th centuries BCE in the land of Judah. Micah's work took place in a time that was marred with violence (specifically through the fall of Samaria and an invasion by an Assyrian king named Sennacherib) and questions of how to properly devote oneself to the worship of Yahweh. Like many other prophets from the Hebrew Bible, Micah spends much of his prophesying to the people on the importance and need for doing social justice. According to prophets like Micah, the people have experienced and will continue to experience so much violence and unease because they have forgotten to help the poor, oppressed, and widows.

We can see these themes of social justice echoed in our verse for today: "...what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness." Justice is not the same as equality because equality presumes that all persons have equal standing on which to receive aid. Justice requires us to humble ourselves in order to provide others with the same opportunities and benefits that we unequally reap from their misfortunes and losses in life.

However, there is another interesting part of Micah's word is that God wants us to "walk modestly" with God and then we can achieve wisdom. From an American context, this command seems to be the most difficult one for all of us to remember; we are raised on preaching loudly when we accomplish things and life manages to go well for us. Perhaps more timely, our political beliefs seem to clout our judgments; no matter how one leans politically, it is safe to say that we all are fond of arguing how right we are and how wrong the other person is. What Micah is telling us is that we need to recognize the need for humility: the act of social justice requires humility because the community must come together in order to provide justice for those who need it the most.

How can we understand Micah's understanding of what God expects from us? A simple reading of the text will only emphasize the need to do social justice and be happy with providing goodness. However, a more nuanced and complex meaning of Micah's words reflect the need for social justice to be done with humility and awareness of the role of God in one's life. While we are expected to perform the actions necessary of social justice, we must also be aware that we are only able to do social justice because God has given us the abilities in order for us to do so. Rather than simply congratulating ourselves when we take care of those who need our communal care the most, we must remember that we are God's hands and feet on this earth.

As we continue to move forward in a time of great conflict and unease, let us remember that our pursuit for justice cannot and should not make us forget the common humanity of each person. While it is normal and we should expect difference, we should not allow difference to become the stopping point in our quest for making our country and communities whole again. Rather than claiming exclusivity in our understanding of what makes our society just, moral, and ethical, we must remember that we owe our ability to do social justice through understanding our working and mutual relationship with God. Even though recognizing the equality and importance of community is a difficult task, we must always remember that the greatest measure of our society is how we treat those need compassion, mercy, and justice the most. Our society means nothing and is a moral heresy if it requires deliberate destruction and sacrifice of our brothers and sisters at the altars of greed, environmental destruction, and violence.