“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Over the years God has given me opportunity to engage with male inmates in state prisons. Serving inmates has opened my heart to God’s love for those incarcerated as He has allowed me to preach, lead Bible studies, and do one-on-one pastoral Zoom calls. It has been a rich time. However, in order for me to be allowed in the prisons, there have been a number of requirements for me to first meet according to Department of Corrections regulations: a personal application, in-person meetings with department of correction officials, background checks to be conducted, rules of conduct to observe, and a recommendation from an approved prison ministry—all these required in order to gain access to minister within the walls of state prisons. Requirements must be met.
In our reading today, the Old Testament prophet, Micah, asks questions about the requirements to be met by the people of Israel in order to live lives which are God-honoring. His question is birthed out of his deep concern for the poor, marginalized, and often forgotten ones in Israel 700 + years before the life of Jesus. Justice, mercy, and humility are the requirements, not burnt offerings, not offering one’s firstborn, not perfunctory activities performed to fulfill the law’s requirements. The LORD looks for actions that flow from the heart.
Centuries later, Jesus underscores this in the Beatitudes as He reminds His audience that blessing flows out of an individual’s compassionate consideration for those in need of God’s kindness and goodness. “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Daily acts of extending mercy (Greek: mercy, eleos, ἔλεος) to others is a requirement for us as Christ-followers in order for us to fully taste God’s daily mercy in our lives. This is normal Christian life stuff—not simply required of those who serve the poor in far-off lands or destitute areas in our own nation. So, what does God require, ask of us? Mercy.
Theologian Millard Erickson writes, “If grace contemplates humans as sinful, guilty and condemned, mercy sees them as miserable and needy.”
- How is your faith at work for those in need of experiencing God’s covenant-keeping love—those living in need or experiencing misery?
- What one thing will you do to live out mercy this week?
by Paul Sinclair