As I reread Micah I am struck by two things. The first is that it is hard to tell at times if the voice of the prophet speaks from his own perspective or from God’s perspective. As the prophet speaks of offering his son for his own transgression–one can quickly assume it is the voice of the prophet speaking for God in his own words. Yet one doesn’t need to go that far out on an interpretive limb to see an allusion to the need for an atonement that transcends the blood of animals and the sacrifices from the fruits of the harvest like that envisioned in the book of Hebrews. And one is struck by the language of personal cost that resonates with the same kind of cost God would incur in offering his one and only Son to a people who had replaced rituals with relationship. As Paul would later put it, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Justice comes at great personal cost, even to God–in fact especially to God. As we ponder what costs we might be willing to pay for justice, we should keep in mind the costs God did pay.
The second thought I want to leave you with is the command to “love mercy.” It is not here enough merely to “do justice,” we are also required to love mercy. Making love a requirement or a command seems strange to us with our ideals about freedom from coercion, but what does not seem strange is that we would need that kind of “strong word” from God to get us up off our seats and on with the business of actually doing it. The way I read it, to love mercy is essentially to offer grace. In a sense, justice is fair, but mercy is unfair. It requires us to go beyond the requirements of fair. If it was earned… it would not be mercy–it could not be–by definition. To love mercy is one of the clearest calls from the Old Testament toward what we refer to in the New as Christ-likeness. To love mercy is to follow Jesus’ example of loving even enemies, of turning the other cheek, of walking in a kind of pre-forgiveness, and to dying to ourselves for a people who did not deserve it.
The very heart of God is one that loves mercy. To be a people after God’s own heart requires us to not only “be” merciful, but to let God reshape our hearts into hearts that love mercy and practice grace. It calls us not only to sacrifice and “give until it hurts,” but to love to do so. In our human understanding, justice and mercy are opposites, yet in God’s understanding they can become two halves of the same coin: love.
Take 10 to 20 minutes in solitude to remember ways you have given and received mercy. What are the struggles inherent in loving mercy? How would seeking after a love strong enough to include mercy help the justice of God be seen and felt in our world?