Friday, January 4, 2013

Mercy, Justice and Humility

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Micah 6:8 (NIV1984) 

He has showed you, O man, 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.

I am using the Bible Gateway verse of the day as my writing spring board presently. I suppose my goal is to help us to see how we are to walk in the time between conversion and heaven. This verse speaks very plainly as to what the Lord requires of us. What is considered good. There are three things listed and they would seem simple enough to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I don't think we are really capable of justice and mercy apart from walking humbly with God. We can't do this life on our own strength or merit. Our righteousness is filthy rags compared to the Lord's standards. The place to start is not to become part of the Justice League or to don a mask and cape and become a super hero. The place to start is to walk humbly with the Lord. As we walk along with him we discover that he loves and delights to show mercy. As we become more like him by spending time with Him we find that we start to love and delight to show mercy. It is not that we show mercy to others because we are duty bound but because we can. 

Mercy and justice to be a big deal to God. In redeeming, rescuing, and saving us the Lord has shown us considerable undeserved mercy. This verse speaks to me of the idea of paying it forward. God has shown you his mercy and we should in turn want to show mercy to others. I think it is much more than an obligation to do good and show others mercy, God actually loves to show us mercy. It is His joy and delight to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. 

Justice is a little bit harder for me to grab on to so. I have done a bit of digging to find some quotes that help me to grow in my understanding of this biblical concept. 

"In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person's place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity."

   C.S. Lewis ~ An Experiment in Criticism
"The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, occurs in its various forms more than 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty. But mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights. Deuteronomy 18 directs that the priests of the tabernacle should be supported by a certain percentage of the people’s income. This support is described as “the priests’ mishpat,” which means their due or their right. Mishpat, then, is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care." Tim Keller ~ What is Biblical Justice

So putting our self in the place of another. Jesus put himself in our place on the cross taking the punishment we deserved. So justice would seem to require personal sacrifice. I like the last line of the Tim Keller quote about giving people what they are due, be it fair punishment or protection or care. 

"Biblical justice involves making individuals, communities, and the cosmos whole, by upholding both goodness and impartiality. It stands at the center of true religion, according to James, who says that the kind of "religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Earlier Scripture says, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern" (Prov. 29:7)." Paul Louis Metzger ~ Leadership Journal Article Summer 2010

I gave her mosaic hair clips for Christmas
Yesterday I got a call from a lady who attends my church. She was living at the women's shelter but decided that living under the bridge was better. Someone had put her up for a night in a nearby hotel for one night. She called because she needed help getting all her stuff from the hotel back to her camping spot under the bridge. It took an hour out of my day. I was glad to be able to help her and also troubled that sleeping in the cold (its about 20 most nights) was better than staying at the shelter. 

We stopped first at the under the bridge location she had been staying. She said she was moving because there was too much drug activity at that camp. That people there did not look out for one another. She was happy that she had found a group of people who would watch out for each other. To stay at the shelter meant a warm bed at night but then dragging all her worldly possessions around during the day. The camp site was better because she could leave her stuff there during the day because people take turns watching the camp. I guess I was surprised by how many people were living under the bridge at that particular location a block away from my church. Some had little tents others just tarps and blankets. There was probably every bit of 50 people at that one location. The city has recently put porta potties under the bridges. I guess business in the area did not want the homeless coming into their establishments to use the restrooms and so the homeless were forced to use the bushes and any secluded spot they could find. The walk way outside my office at the church often is used as a bathroom. Its pretty disgusting. 

I know when we first started our weekly meal for the homeless that I would often go home at night and feel guilty that I had a warm bed to sleep in while someone I had talked to was sleeping out in the rain or the cold. I have had to learn to be led by the Holy Spirit as to what things I am supposed to do something about. We are confronted with so much need every day. Often all I have to give is my time, a listening ear and a little kindness. I guess as I read my bible I see that I follow a God who reaches out to us in our mess and brokenness. I find that I am compelled to follow his example. He left the wonders of heaven and to be born in a barn. My response is that I could go to a nice plush suburban church or I could go to the stinky smelly barn of a poor inner city church. There are Sundays that the people I hug or sit next to smell so bad it is hard not to retch. Yet the have made the effort to come to church. Sometimes just for the coffee and the warmth of the room. Little by little they find they are accepted and they start to taste and see the goodness of God.  I'm not telling you this so you can think I'm some super Christian - because I'm not. I, like you, have to read my bible and figure out how to put it into practice in my life. I am realizing that mercy and justice require the love of personal sacrifice. You and I can't even begin to do that with out Jesus. 

I still don't fully know what God would have me do in response to the tent city under the bridge, maybe my job is to tell you.  I know it troubles me that people I actually know are living under the bridge in such horrible conditions.  I know they could use rolls of plastic, and tarps, blankets, portable propane heaters, back packs, dog food, a warm meal and so much more. You may not have access to these people in the way that I do. I guess I would hope that at the very least you would pray for them. If you would like to help you can use the donate button on top right of my page - just put a note that says help the homeless or the bridge people. I am headed to my garage to see if we have any tarps that are not in use to take to my friend under the bridge. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, I lift up the bridge people. Help us each to know what you would have us do in response to the needs you make us aware of each day. Help us to be led by your Holy Spirit and by love and not simply by pity or guilt.  Help us to each figure out what it means to walk humbly with you and how we are to love mercy and act justly. Help us to be doers of your word and not just hear it and give you lip service. 

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