Christian Unity Service 2013

Micah 6v6-8 What does the Lord require of you?

St Patrick’s Church Stonebridge 22 January

Homily given by Rev Malcolm Kingston Rector of Kilmore and Dobbin Parishes

My Thanks to Father Oliver Brennan & Parishioners for their invitation to speak and share in this service together. I wonder what expectations people have of you?

  • Perhaps you are in school or university, and the expectation is that you will do really well in your studies.
  • Perhaps your boss expects seemingly impossible results.
  • Perhaps you are a parent and the expectation is that you will know all of the answers and have all the money in the world.
  • Perhaps you are a grandparent and the expectation is that you will be always available to help look after your grandchildren.
  • Perhaps you feel as if you are expected to do more than your fair share in the ministry of the church.
  • Perhaps in your family or friendship circle you are expected to be the one that everyone can rely on for help with their problems.
  • Perhaps the expectations of you are too high.
  • Perhaps, even the expectations we have of ourselves are unfair.
  • Perhaps we feel as if you just cannot achieve what we or others feel we should.
  • Perhaps we even feel guilty, because we believe that we fail God’s expectations of us.

God had big expectations for the nation of Israel.  He formed it to bring a great blessing to the whole world.  God’s desire was that through Israel’s obedience and passion for the God who freed them and made them into a great nation, that the world might recognise God at work, blessing those of faith in Him.  But Israel failed God’s expectations.  They began to adopt the practices of the godless nations around them and made them less able to do the work God had called them to do.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, more powerful than any telling off or punishment for being bold, were the words from my Mum or Dad, ‘Malcolm, I am disappointed with you’.  Perhaps you have experienced something like that, the realisation of expectation unfulfilled.  None of us likes to let a loved one down and I guess the starting point of not letting God down is actually loving Him and desiring to please Him and meet His desires and expectations of us.  The thought of God being disappointed with us should stir us towards living a life with which He is pleased and desires for us to live.

There can be no doubt that honouring God is a massive calling, it is a big expectation.  To meet all of the expectations of a Holy and Almighty God is an incredible ask.  We cannot do it, we will always need His mercy and we will always need the strength, wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  But in what ways can we hope to please our living, powerful and holy God?

The Prophet Micah was given a job of basically declaring God’s disappointment with Israel and the punishment that they would endure.  Now that is a rough expectation isn’t it?!  But Micah was also given a message of hope, of restoration with the God whose heart was broken by the disobedience and failure of the people He loved.  This message of hope was of course realised in the Messiah Micah prophesied would come, the Lord Jesus.

But in the meantime, what did God ask of the people of Israel?  How were they supposed to be the signpost to the nations that would point people towards the true and living God?  As members of the Lord’s Church, we are to be people who point others towards the Lord.  How can we be visible signposts to God?

In Micah 6:8 we read some beautiful and challenging words : ‘And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

So this evening, we are going to consider these three desires of God.  If we live out these features of acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, we will not only bring delight to God, but serve as an amazingly powerful witness to our world.  Would it not be true that a Church that is characterised by people who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, would stand really stand out in a society that is regularly featured with injustice, mercilessness, and indifference towards God?

It must be remembered though, to manifest these attributes, which are desired by God and demonstrated by God, we first of all need to know and love God.  We cannot act justly, unless we have been justified by faith and are right with God.  To love mercy we need to have experienced God’s mercy.  If we want to walk humbly with God, we must first of all bow humbly before Him, in repentance with  a willingness to serve.

We cannot expect to offer these desired characteristics by ourselves.  Only servants of the living God, people committed to following His Son and are being transformed by His Spirit from the inside out can act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

So what do each of these features entail?

Act Justly

To act justly is to act with fairness, honesty, and integrity.  If there is something that damages people’s view of God’s people it is seeing them act unjustly.  We have to practice what we preach!

Micah had a special concern for justice, primarily because he saw so little of it.  Justice involves the sense of a standard of equality among people.  Justice involves treating people as we would like them to treat us, with honesty and respect.

Acting justly can be as big as standing up for the rights of the voiceless and the vulnerable.  There are so many people who are victims in our world and society, simply because their silence suits us more than facing up to their cause.  We bury our heads in the sand to muffle their cries, because we know that their needs will challenge our comforts, use up our time and lighten our wallets.  God’s people need to be involved in standing up for equality, for justice.

Acting justly can be as simple as being honest in even the smallest routine business transaction.  In Micah, the prophet complained about the person who uses “dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights.” (Micah 6:11)  In our daily lives, do we tell the truth?  Do we treat our clients fairly?  Do we give our employers what they deserve from us?  When we return goods to a shop, do we tell the whole truth?  When we negotiate a price for something, are the cheaper quotes we claim to have obtained entirely accurate?

What God requires of us is that we do what is right and fair in our relationships with other people.

There is an old saying, “honesty is the best policy.” But for a Christian, that slogan should be, “honesty is the ONLY policy” because there is a consistent theme in all of Scripture, that we are called to be people of fairness and integrity in all our dealings.

We must resolve it deep within our hearts to be a people of integrity, and be on guard in the battle to act justly.  We are to be fair and demand fairness for all.  If there is one thing that Jesus reacted to in condemnation, it was injustice.

Love Mercy

The second thing that God requires of us is that we “love mercy.”

Notice also that the requirement here is not that we HAVE mercy, but that we are to LOVE mercy.  There is a big difference between the two.  One way of describing the difference is to say that we don’t just do acts of kindness from a sense of obedience or compulsion, but we do them out of love.  Loving mercy involves desiring to demonstrate compassion and kindness toward one another, often in difficult circumstances.

Apparently, the Hebrew word that Micah used in v8, translated as “mercy,” is a rich one, often used in relation to God’s grace, or of unexpected, unmerited kindness.

Jesus’ teachings and demonstrations of mercy often involved the idea of unexpected or unmerited acts of kindness.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it was the one considered least likely to offer help who did so.  The parable of the Prodigal Son reveals to us the heart of a father who accepted his son against the expectation of almost everyone.  The story of the woman caught in adultery teaches a compassionate mercy scarcely revealed in Old Testament Jewish law.  The dying thief on a cross has a lesson for us about the depth of God’s mercy.

Because we have such a merciful God, we are charged to love and demonstrate mercy.  Mercy is often not what we would show one another; but it is the only response that makes any sense in light of the mercy that God has shown us in Jesus Christ.

By being compassionate, generous, as well as a forgiving people, we are being merciful and with this, God is highly pleased, because we are demonstrating something of His very being.  He continually showers us with His blessing without our even realising.  In thanksgiving for God’s mercy, above all expressed through His Son, may we be merciful people.

Walk Humbly with your God

So far we have seen that God expects His people to treat one another justly and fairly, and He expects His people to love mercy and to show kindness toward one another.

But the third expectation Micah shares is that God expects us to give Him His proper place in our relationship with Him.  Before God, all we should ever be is humble.

Each Year, TIME Magazine publishes its list of 100 most influential people of current times.  Last year’s selection included world leaders such as US President Barak Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel & Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un.  Also included were famous show business characters such as singers Rihanna and Adele, actress Claire Danes and film maker Harvey Weinstien.  Influential sports personalities include footballer Lionel Messi, tennis player Novak Djokovic and Olympian and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.  Other figures to make the list included less famous, but very significant scientists, corporate managers and human right activists.

Imagine how we would feel if we had the opportunity to speak to any of the influential people in the Times 100.  Imagine how humbled we would be to be in their presence.  Imagine how privileged we would be to even speak to such a person who has made it in some way to becoming someone that many, many revere and respect.  But we stand in the presence of Almighty God and we have the incredible opportunity of speaking with Him at any moment of the day.

God is someone that even the most powerful and influential people on earth will bow to one day, if not already.  We so often forget the absolute Majesty and Sovereignty of our God.  But as Philippans 2 reminds us, His Son, our Lord Jesus humbled himself from the glory of heaven to the cross so that we can know God, not only as our absolute Lord, but also as our Father.  We have the privilege of being able to approach God not as some distant all powerful being, but as our heavenly Father, as His children.

Despite all of the ways that we have hurt God, let Him down, forgotten about Him, ignored His will for our lives, His love is expressed by His Son who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant in human likeness and was ‘… obedient to death – even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2v8)

None of us deserve right to be counted as a child of God.  The opportunity to love Him and live for Him is only possible because of God’s mercy and grace offered to us through our Lord Jesus.  It really is the most incredible privilege, something that we should be so humbly thankful for.

I guess something that we need to continually ask ourselves is – Who is God to us?  Is He like a Santa Claus type person that we occasionally offer a wish list to?  Is He someone that we try and keep sweet with the odd wee act of kindness or generosity?  Or is He someone to whom we bow in our hearts, desiring to honour with our whole being, walking humbly with and for each day of our lives?

Conclusion

Acting Justly, Loving Mercy, Walking Humbly with our God, what a wonderful mission statement for the people of God.  In our interactions with one another, may we act justly, with fairness, with honesty and integrity.  Recognising God’s mercy for us, may we likewise love Him for it and seek to demonstrate lives of mercy towards all people whom He loves.  Acknowledging our privilege to receive God’s mercy through the sacrifice of His Son, may we bow before God with humble hearts and choose to service Him in our daily lives.  Tonight, may our heart’s deepest desire be to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.