Rev. Fr. Dimitrios J. Antokas is the Presiding Priest at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland.
Sometimes life gets too complicated. We rush through our days reacting, responding, running around, caught up in the whirl of this post-modern, stress-ridden life to such an extent that we lose sight of the simple messages that God sends us.
One of the major ministries of the prophets of the Old Testament was to boldly cut through the confusion, betrayal, collective anxiety, and competing values of the people of Israel and call them back to the covenant made between Yahweh-God and Abraham. The people of Israel’s own self-absorption and weakness caused them to abandon that divine bargain and strike out on their own, getting caught up in betrayal after betrayal of Yahweh and heading for certain destruction.
Cutting through all of that moral confusion and social upheaval came the prophets, deftly pronouncing both God’s judgment and the promise of deliverance still offered. One such voice from the group of minor prophets, was that of Micah. He soberly paints a picture of God’s anger at Israel for its treachery and moral collapse.
Our Eternal Guiding Light
In Micah, 6:3, God, in an imaginary dialogue with Israel, cries out, “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I offended you. Answer me!”
Israel’s lost sense of eternal priorities had become fatal. Micah pierces through all the betrayals, the missed opportunities, and the mistakes to the bottom line:
“He [God] has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you—to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
In three simple phrases, Micah summarizes all the requirements of the Abrahamic covenant. Nothing complex or sophisticated, nothing philosophical or appreciable by only the smartest—the desire of God for the people of Israel was that they do justice, live and love mercy, and walk in surrender to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Micah’s prophetic summary also applies to the disciples of Jesus, the Anointed of God who fulfills all that was written in the Law and the Prophets.
When our lives becomes like Israel’s, when the noise and pull of the world gets the better of us or when even our faith morphs into “religion” and we begin missing the point entirely is when we lose touch with the core of who we are. That core is the God of the Prophets and of the Christ. The Messiah reminds us to do justice, love mercy, and humbly walk with God.
Do justice. Biblical justice describes right relationships with other people based on how God views them, not as we view them. It means treating others in a way that honors and glorifies God, that reflects the way He deals with them. The call here is to “do justice,” not just be supportive of justice accomplished by other people. Micah first calls us to look at the way we view and relate to others. Do we place them in “slots”? Do we pre-judge them based on appearance, manner of speaking, social status, or whether or not they agree with us? Do we use other people to satisfy ‘the beast” of our own ego? Do I reach out to those who are deprived of social justice—the hungry, the homeless, immigrants, the poor? Remember I John 4:20. “How can you say you love God whom you do not see when you don’t love your brother whom you do see.”
Love mercy. The Hebrew term hesed means “loyal love.” It is the greatest attribute of God in the Old Testament. It defines His steadfast covenantal love. Our call is to love people in the same way that God loves us: unconditionally, mercifully, passionately, consistently, kindly, and with loyalty. Above all, it means to show compassion and forgiveness, no matter how grave the offense. Do I show that kind of love and loyalty to my spouse? Do I place career ahead of my family? Do I put my parents down just to blend in with other kids? Do I show hesed in the workplace or in my business relationships in a culture where commitments are taken lightly and contracts are made to be broken? Am I skilled in finding the sin or weakness in others while ignoring my own? Do I genuinely forgive? How much true mercy is in my heart?
Walk humbly with your God. The Hebrew term for humility is rendered “circumspectly” in English. It describes a lifestyle that is not proud, not self-willed, and not arrogant. We are called to walk in submission to God and to His heart, His will, and His ways. We are to live attentively and carefully. Do I faithfully pray every day? Do I trust in my own judgment alone? Am I a controller, manipulator, and ever “the boss”? Do I live with an inflated sense of myself and expect others to agree with my perception? Do things need to be done my way? Do I complain and gripe about most things in my life? Is Christ Jesus at the center of my life? Honestly? For Micah and for Jesus, humble living is selfless living.
Three simple phrases provide the framework for Christian discipleship. This is what the Lord asks of each of us. How are we responding so far? Remember, please pray for me!
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