Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God
In the precept class just past, a classmate shared Micah 6:8, “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.” This simple verse not only encapsulated the principles guiding Christian living, it also cast new light on what service to God should look like.
Those of us who serve in church – whether we have just started serving or whether we have been involved for quite some time, we need to remember that what we call ‘service’ is actually a gift from God, an avenue through which He works in our lives, moulding us into Christ-likeness. Because our all-knowing and all-powerful God really do not need us to do anything for him. Therefore, if we find service challenging and tiring, I would say, we are probably on the right track, for while involvement in ministry can be energizing, it also has its fair share of draining moments, and these are our moments of growth.
The world expects Christians to be saints, but we know better. Filled with sinners (through and through), church is often messy and complicated. As such, when we serve in church and become more involved with the church community, we often encounter disappointment. We are disappointed when people do not behave the way we think they should, when people are not who we think they seem to be, when things do not go the way we had hoped for. Yes, conflicts exist in church. And when faced with these trials, our first instinct is always to judge others, to demand change from them, couching compromise in terms of the adjustments we expect the other party to be making. Self-righteously, we feel justified to be on a warpath when we think we are right, when we think an injustice has been done to us.
Taking a step back, did not God say that vengeance (Deut. 32:35) belongs to Him, a call for us to bring any injustice to Him, instead of seeking redress or taking matters in our own hands? As such, when God call us to “act justly,” He really mean for us to examine our actions instead of that of others.
Truth be told, in any conflict, it is almost impossible to pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Very often, both parties are both right and wrong at the same time, but in different ways. In the arena of service, most of us come with pure objectives and good intentions, but different ways of doing things. In these instances, to insist on going about things our way, i.e. ‘my way or the highway’ seems to be the wrong way. A friend shared with me recently, if doing ‘x’ instead of ‘y’ is not going to cost us our salvation, then there is no reason to insist on ‘y’ or even ‘x’ for that matter. Her words hit a nerve and made me realise that acting justly is not all about taking large strides forward, it could also be in the form of stepping backwards and being accommodating, and counting others more significant as ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and accepting the ways they do things as our ways.
This is consistent with what Micah 6:8 teaches about mercy, beseeching us to “love mercy.” Mercy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as compassion and forbearance. In Christian education, mercy is often held up as a foil to grace; if grace were receiving that which we do not deserve e.g. redemption from sin, then mercy is not receiving that which we deserve e.g. penalty for sin. In tangible terms, this means that even in circumstances where we are clearly in the right and the other party is wrong, we are not to throw our weight around or be insistent. Instead, we are told to be merciful, to be compassionate and show forbearance.
Whether we are able to show forbearance has a lot to do with how humble and careful we are in our dealings with others, in and out of church. Here, being careful means really thinking before speaking and acting, showing consideration for how would words and actions can impact others or be misunderstood. In some sense, we appear to be bending backward to please others, and the extent to which one should go is an entirely personal decision. For me, I hold the view that the Christian life is a life lived for others, for never for a moment was Christ living for himself, and looking at things from this perspective, we certainly can never do enough for Christ.
At the end of the day, what is of utmost importance is our walk with God. John 15:5 tells us that apart from God we can do nothing; for our service to be fruitful, God has to be our leader and guide, the centre of everything we do. We are to submit ourselves to His will, as well as to the authority that He has placed over us, if we claim to be serving Him.