Act Justly, Love Mercy

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 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.

Micah 6:6-8

By Sarah Lloyd

I’ve run through Alton Baker Park thousands of times over the years, so I don’t remember how long ago this mural was painted under the Ferry Street bridge. But it immediately jumped out at me the first time I saw it:

Do justly love Mercy Walk Humbly

It’s a reference to Micah 6:8, with the rest of the verse conveniently omitted. Eugene’s culture doesn’t relish the idea of lordship in general, especially of any phrase in the Bible requiring something of people, and “walk humbly” is infinitely less offensive than “walk humbly with your God.” 

This has been a guiding verse for me since high school, when I encountered my first big life decision: What should I do after graduation? Should I go to college, become a foreign missionary, or try to find someone to marry? What is God’s will for my life? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Reflect the character of your holy God to the world around you. 

As Jen Wilkin explains in Chapter 4 of In His Image, the Bible extols God’s justice as a virtue, not a blemish. A community like Eugene relishes the pursuit of social justice, of punishment for those who misuse their wealth and power. When predators are exposed, people call for them to be severely punished in ways that would prevent them from ever harming another living being. They are outraged, even murderous, wishing for the abuser to experience the same level of pain as the innocent party. This person deserves to suffer! Justice!

We think we long for a just government, free of greed and corruption, but what would it be like to live under perfect justice? What happens when you are the guilty party? It’s easy to focus on our neighbors’ sins and call for justice when we feel their offenses are egregious. But perfect justice can only come from a perfect God, who witnesses every person’s actions and the thoughts and motives behind them. When I imagine life under a government that knows every single thing I think and say and do, I’m suddenly thankful for the limitations in the system I have right now. When I remember that my God is perfectly holy and yet knows me completely, I’m suddenly less enthusiastic about perfect justice, and much more thankful for His mercy.

God’s mercy, defined in Chapter 4, is His active compassion toward His creation. His justice demands that we receive the punishment for our sins — death — and yet His active compassion moved Him to send His beloved Son to bear that punishment in our place. God’s justice and mercy, seemingly contradictory, worked together perfectly as Jesus died on the cross. Now that Christ has fulfilled our punishment for sin, God’s justice ensures our forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 assures us that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins when we confess them. In this context, we can rejoice and worship God for His justice, perfectly balanced in mercy.

This verse is just as applicable now that I have the answers to all three of my questions about life after high school, as new decisions regularly arise: How should I spend my time today? How should I budget my money? Should I pursue this relationship, this activity, this opportunity for work or housing? How should I respond to this irritating person or this child who is defying my authority day after day? Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Obviously, that is not as specific an answer as I might want, but it does help clarify and confirm whether a decision aligns with God’s will for my life. Will making this decision encourage me to act justly? Do I find myself more prone to love mercy, to walk humbly with my God in this direction? 

Today marks seven weeks since schools were cancelled and life at work and home changed significantly for many of us. We don’t know the future, and the present can be confusing and overwhelming. But Micah 6:8 still guides us: Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for your justice, perfectly balanced with your mercy. Thank You that we can act justly and show mercy to those around us because You have justified us and lavished us with your mercy through Christ’s death on the cross. Teach us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You as our God. 

One thought on “Act Justly, Love Mercy

  1. Sarah, you are wise and articulate beyond your years. You wove justice & mercy together beautifully. Thank you for writing, especially in this busy season of your life..

    Like

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