“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).
IT OFTEN HELPS TO SIMPLIFY THINGS. Especially when the subject is God, it is good from time to time to step back and ask what it is all about. There are a handful of texts in the Scriptures that help us do this. One such text is Micah 6:8, which asks what it is that God requires of us and then answers that question in a very basic way: we are required to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. Here, then, are some things of fundamental importance. Leaving aside for the moment the question of details and particulars, godliness comes down to just a few issues like these.
When we look thoughtfully at what this text says, we are struck by the fact that God’s basic requirements have to do with the heart, or inner character, rather than the superficial things of outward activity. It is not that our outward actions are unimportant, but rather that God begins His work on the inside. The fruit borne by the tree will be good if the tree itself is good (Matthew 7:17,18), and whether the tree can be good depends on how healthy the tap root is. Micah 6:8 deals with some of the more important “tap root” issues; it is one of the most basic “character” texts in all of God’s word. And when we take seriously what it says about justice, mercy, and walking humbly with God, we will find that we have much less trouble with the details of daily living. When our character is conformed to the principles of God, our conduct will be very naturally what it ought to be.
But are we really committed to the virtues recommended by such texts? It is not difficult to pay lip service to things like justice, but are we truly willing to build our character on these principles? Too often we define ourselves in terms of what we are against and see our righteousness as little more than the disapproval of certain sins that other people commit. But texts like Micah 6:8 call us back to the center of what really matters most. It is good, and even necessary, to be against what is wrong in the world. But God is looking for people who will be for what is right — and justice, mercy, and humility are the right things to be for.
“Loving what is right is different from hating what is wrong and feeling right about it” (Roy Masters).