by Warren Nelson, 06/09/2017

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8 NKJV

If you want me to listen to you, the above is a prerequisite and must be obvious in your life.

As a former Christian and 4th generation Adventist I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the belief that it was my responsibility to defend God to the world. On pain of eternal damnation, I might even be required to lay down my life in that process.

I wonder what the church would be like, and how others would regard Christianity, if Christians took Micah 6:8 seriously?

And then I asked myself this question.

“If God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, why does God need me to defend Godself?”

In the world in which we live, people of faith are often called upon to defend the actions of others who claim their faith when they perform stupid and harmful acts in the name of their God.

Very recently in Portland, while riding on our light rail system, a clearly deranged man began ranting at young girl in a hijab. Three men stepped in to protect the girl and try to calm the man. The man pulled a knife, slit the throats of all three men, all the while screaming about how Muslims were killing Christians, so this young girl, and anyone else who got in his way, deserved to die.

Two of the men bled to death before they could get aid. A third will live. Those three saved the girl.

I posted about this on Facebook. I labelled the man a Christian terrorist, which brought down the wrath of one of my pet trolls. Even though he expects Muslims of all nationalities and sects to condemn and apologize for any and all atrocities self-labelled Muslims perpetrate, he thought though my calling a white, violent, Christian man a terrorist unfair.

He has every right to his opinion, but here is mine. There are two major commands in the Bible that would seem like they would (by the number of times they are given) dominate Christian behavior: love, and don’t be afraid. If this were truly what Christians were known for, there would be no need to defend themselves or God No defense would be necessary.

There are many—maybe the majority—of Christians, who believe these two commands, and attempt to orient their lives around them. But these aren’t always easy to separate from the rest. I do technical customer support for a small Christian non-profit and I’m astonished at the lack of simple social graces that are missing from many Christian people I deal with. And those I just the ones I encounter via email!

As I sit in Starbucks and listen to the conversations swirling around me, the level of anger among the Christians is stunning. They seem to ready to burn the world down to get rid of others who don’t live or believe like them. In a recent interview, the president’s son summed it up pretty accurately. Eric Trump says of his father’s critics: ‘to me they’re not even people.'”

Now, one could say, probably with some degree of accuracy, that I carry my feelings on my sleeve. I cry easily when I’m moved by either joy or sadness. But here’s the upside: I notice when someone is living the life described in the opening of this little rant, because it feels good!

The barista at Starbucks who worries about me when I miss an early morning coffee, the gruff guy at the tire store who is one of the kindest and most honest tradesman I’ve come across, the huge policeman who knelt beside a lost, elderly woman in her night dress and gently helped her remember where she lived, the chaplain at the hospital who was the only one who was able to be in my mom’s room and not wake her up. . . all of these make me tear up and I have no idea if these people are Christian or not (except for the chaplain, because she gave me her card).

These people and others like them make me glad to be alive and to be a human being, and not once did any of them feel the need to share with me that they were Christians—though I’m sure some were.

A couple of things I notice about Micah 6:8: First, it is a command to take action. It requires the pursuit of justice and the application of mercy. I doubt that this combination is a coincidence. They go together. My experience with Christians is that they are very big in the pursuit of justice, especially in their own behalf. They are, however, quite a bit less zealous in the application of mercy, except, once again, on their own behalf.

It’s the last expectation that I find the most interesting: “to walk humbly with your God.” Granted, there are some New Testament commands to proselyte others, but none apparently are meant to abrogate the simple expectation that you “walk humbly with your God.”

This “show me, don’t tell me” approach requires work and self-reflection. It would take effort, but it is something that ought to be able to be accomplished. I wonder what the church would be like, and how others would regard Christianity, if Christians took Micah 6:8 seriously?

After all, it’s what the Lord requires of you.


 

Warren Nelson is semi-retired tech and media guy from the Pacific Northwest. He’s got a wonderful wife and some adorable grandchildren. He runs a lot. He also works with the Adventist Today team. 

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