Daily D – 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. (NIV)
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (MSG)
We make life harder than it has to be. We make faith far more complex than necessary. Simplicity magnifies what matters most. (Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:37-40)
Twenty years ago, a movie was released based on the classic novel The Count of Monte Christo. A particular line of speech is repeated with great effect on several occasions. Both Count Mondego and Monte Christo utter the words, “It’s complicated.”
Simplicity is the beatific state on the other side of complexity.
Many of us who have attended church all of our lives grew up with rules for right behavior. The idea was to teach us what to do and what not to do. This is helpful. However, if all we focus on are the rules, we miss the heart of the matter.
Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters five through seven. Jesus talks about the rules everyone in his hearing grew up learning. He took those bare-boned rules and added flesh and breath and turned them into relationships. The most important thing is not the rule saying, “Thou shalt not. The most important thing to him was what occurred between and among people at points of disagreement or crossed purposes. The most important thing was “Thou shalt” do what honors God and blesses one another.
The simplicity of what Jesus says in these chapters staggering. Right after the Beatitudes (5:1-12), Jesus tells his apprentices, make the world more brilliant and savory (salt and light; 13-16). He finishes this idea with the primary purpose behind our behavior. “(T)hat they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Honor God. Bless and serve others.
These ideas, these simple truths, solve problems and resolve conflicts without unnecessary drama.
If you want to reduce the murder rate, check out 5:21-26. Jesus says before you get good and angry, angry enough to say demeaning things and using successive levels of force, stop. Stop and be reconciled. He says reconciliation is more important than giving a big offering in worship. Stop problems when they are simple before they get out of hand.
Next he deals with adultery, then divorce, then making promises you have no intention of keeping, punching someone’s lights out, and considering other people enemies. He says the cure for all these issues is love. Not the All You Need Is Love silly love songs love. This is the tough-minded, real-world seeking the highest good of others kind of love that serves and goes the distance even if it requires an extra mile kind of love.
If this is beginning to sound complicated, it is not. Reframe all of your relationships, all of your problems, all of your conflicts through the lens of God’s love. He says, “Love everybody.” He expects us to become love as he is love. (See 4:43-48 for the details.)
Here are some questions to help us get started focusing on loving people and not on keeping rules:
- What is the most loving thing I can say in this moment?
- What is the most loving thing I can do at this time?
- How can I choose words and actions reflective of God’s heart?
- How can I demonstrate the peace we need and the steps to arrive there?
What other questions come to mind?
God wants justice and mercy. He wants us to humbly acknowledge our anger and our interpretation and application of the rules keep us from ever reaching these goals. When our complexity overrules his simplicity, we hurt ourselves and others. When we do the challenging and perfecting work of tough-minded, kindhearted love, we provide healing and hope.
How now shall we live?
I will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Our Father, forgive us for loving rules and hating people. Forgive us for erecting boundaries to protect us from having to care for people we do not like. Forgive us for choosing the shortcut of shouting rather than the soundness of purposeful conversation. Empower us to lead with love. May our every thought, word, and action proceed from this place of grace, this place of mercy, this place of humility that esteems people above rules. Amen.
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Romans 2:4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
Acts 18:24-26 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.