Micah 6, Part I: Do Justice Rev. Tom Hagood
We’re going to spend the next three weeks examining
one of the most powerful text
in all of the Hebrew scriptures . . . Micah 6:6-8.
Where Jesus tells us very clearly
that we are to love God with all of our heart, mind
and soul and our neighbor as our self . . .
Micah 6 tells us how to do it with three very precise words . . .
three verbs . . . three action words . . .
three imperatives that command us . . . not ask us . . .
what we are to do.
DO justice . . .
LOVE kindness . . .
WALK humbly with God.
Today we look at the “do justice” part of that command.
Some of you might be thinking . . .
oh here goes Pastor Tom again
with his social justice agenda . . .
but that’s not what I’m going to do.
Because these words from Micah aren’t my words anyway . . . I’m just God’s messenger . . .
the same way Micah was God’s messenger
to the Jewish people long ago . . .
being the voice of God . . .
trying to tell the people
what God expected out of them.
So do me a favor today . . . don’t shoot the messenger.
Let’s get started.
The Hebrew word for justice is mispat.
You can find it all over the place in the Hebrew scriptures . . . because justice . . . mispat . . .
is a very important concept . . .
it’s at the heart of our relationship with God
as a people.
Quite simply . . . in the words of Micah . . .
justice . . . mispat . . .
is something we are supposed TO DO.
Justice is NOT something that we just hope for
in the sweet by and by . . .
or something to whine and complain about . .
it is something WE . . . ARE . . . TO DO.
Not because I say so . . .
but because God commands us to do it.
Now if you examine the word closely
throughout the scriptures . . .
you will find that God uses this word when calling us
to work for equality and fairness for everyone . . .
particularly those people who are oppressed or powerless . . . and believe me . . .
there were a lot of those kind of folks back in Micah’s day . . .
and there’re plenty more in our day, too.
So what did God say? . . .
Well listen to just a few of God’s words about justice . . .
18 God executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and who loves the strangers,
providing them food and clothing.
19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers
in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10)
20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,
so that you may live and occupy the land
that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 16)
19 “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.”
All the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deut. 27)
3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82)
3 Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times. (Psalm 106)
3 To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21)
17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1)
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5)
24 “Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world;
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25)
Sounds pretty clear to me . . . we are to do justice.
Quite simply . . . God commands us
to do justice for those who need justice . . .
the ones who have no power to help themselves . . .
the very ones Jesus blessed . . . the forgotten ones . . .
the widows . . . the orphans . . . the poor . . . the homeless . . . the refugee . . . the immigrant . . .
the children in foster care . . .
the children with special needs . . . the elderly . . .
the uninsured . . . the broken in spirit . . . the mentally ill . . .
we are to do justice for them.
One Christian writer puts it this way . . .
“Our whole hearts, our whole politics, our whole systems,
must be turned to those who are unemployed, starving,
oppressed, gunned down innocently,
and without access to basic care to lift them out
of these conditions that are out of step
with God’s economy of human dignity, justice, and peace.”
Bouldin, Todd (2013-11-21). Divine Disruption: Advent Reflections for the Digital Age (Kindle Locations 971-973). TBE Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Wow. That sounds like a lot . . . that’s a tall order.
Now remember . . . I’m just the messenger.
I’m not telling you to do justice . . . God is doing that.
What you and I have to figure out
is how we go about doing it . . . doing justice . . .
as disciples of Jesus Christ . . .
and as a part of this community . . .
Columbia Presbyterian Church.
How do we figure out which justice issue
is the one we should tackle together or individually . . .
which one is the right one for me . . .
which one is right for you?
Quite honestly, I don’t think the few of us here
are going to be able to bring justice to the entire world . . .
or even to Decatur for that matter . . .
because truth be known . . .
only Jesus will be able to do that.
So how do we decide on what Jesus
is calling us to do with him . . .
what burns in your heart when you look at the world
and see injustice?
What is it that fills you with indignation
and offends your sense of justice.
Maybe that’s your starting point.
Get in touch with what’s burning in your gut.
Now I could make a long list of social and justice issues
for you to choose from . . .
predatory lending practices
that target the poor and the elderly . . .
sexual exploitation of our children . . .
inequality in our school systems . . .
immigrants beating at the door of our nation . . .
the widening gap between the rich and the poor . . .
the cyclical impact of poverty and homelessness
on families . . .
the debilitating effects of war on young men and women . . .
the lives lost to gun violence in our society . . .
I can go on and on.
But once again . . . let me remind you . . .
I’m just the messenger.
God is calling you to do justice.
Maybe the dynamic Christian writer, Shane Clairborne,
has a good approach for us to consider this morning.
He was speaking to a group of Princeton students
when he was asked how they were to choose
which issue of social justice were the most important.
Here’s what he said . . .
“The question made me cringe.
These issues have faces.
We’re talking not only about ideas
but also about human emergencies.
My response to the well-intentioned Princeton students was,
“Don’t choose issues; choose people.
Come play in the fire hydrants in North Philly.
Fall in love with a group of people
who are marginalized and suffering,
and then you won’t have to worry
about which cause you need to protest.
Then the issues will choose you.”
Claiborne, Shane (2008-09-09). The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Kindle Locations 2656-2661). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
I like what he says.
The issues don’t become about “them” . . .
some faceless group of people . . .
it becomes about a relationship . . . one on one . . .
just the way Jesus Christ doesn’t just sit back
and say I love all of humankind . . .
he comes into our broken lives . . .
each and every one of our lives and says . . .
I want to be in relationship with you.
So how do we do justice.
I suggest we begin by building a relationship with someone
you recognize in this world who has a need . . .
and not just hand out some money . . .
not just sign a petition . . . not just pray about them . . .
though all those are good things . . .
but to really do justice . . .
in the way Jesus Christ does justice . . .
is to sit with someone who is broken . . .
who is poor . . . who is homeless . . .
who is afraid . . . who feels forgotten . . .
who is being used . . . and begin a conversation . . .
maybe with just four simple words . . .
“I care about you.”
Then let Jesus take over at that point.
He’ll let you know what you’re to do next.
Maybe doing justice that way . . .
gives us a new way of thinking about stewardship.
Usually when I say the word “Stewardship” . . .
most people cringe.
They think I’m getting ready to ask for money.
No . . . that’s not what I’m doing today.
I’m actually asking you to reimagine
what stewardship is really about . . .
I’m asking you to reconsider what it means
to give your money . . . your time . . . and your
talents to doing justice in this world.
I want to invite you to begin thinking of stewardship
in a new way . . .
as a means of giving yourself to others
as a disciple of Christ . . .
and the first step is to reach out to someone else
who is in need.
So I’d like to give all of us a few moments
to consider what God is telling us to do
in these powerful words from Micah . . .
to do justice.
There are three prayer stations around the church . . .
two in the back and one up front . . .
each one is the same.
Go to one of them and begin a new journey . . .
a prayerful journey . . .
and see what God might be calling you to do . . .
and this church to do . . .
when we do mispat . . .
when we do justice.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.