There is nobody in this life nor the next, who is more important to please than God. His is an opinion with eternal consequences. If God approves of you, then it doesn’t matter what others think. Likewise, and contrarily, if God is not happy with you…
So, it is worth answering the question, what does God expect from us? To answer this question, we have, in recent weeks, been looking at the answer the prophet Micah was given: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; ESV)
It is the second of these requirements that we want to focus on today: God wants you to love kindness. The word rendered “kindness” by the ESV is translated as “mercy” in several other translations, and the thought stands in contrast to the one immediately preceding it: “do justice.”
The idea of “doing justice,” speaks to how we are to behave towards others. Do not steal from them, do not lie to them, do not harm them. Contrarily, the central idea being presented behind “kindness” and “mercy” is in regards to the patience you have towards the behavior of others.
Humans are fallible creatures. We all have those moments when others have not done unto us as they should. And we all have those moments when we have not done to others as we should have. Perhaps it was a lie that was told. Perhaps it was words spoken in anger, or thoughtlessness, or rudeness, or some such. Perhaps it was a more serious transgression such as theft, or even a physical assault.
How should we react when others have wronged us? How do we want them to react when we have wronged them?
What God wants from men is mercy and kindness. He wants us to be able to forgive. Jesus, taking the doctrine to its logical and perfect conclusion taught His followers, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45a; ESV) This seems unreasonable to some perhaps, that a man should be told to love his enemies, but as with all of God’s commands, when it is followed, it produces good results, and makes the world a better place.
We all want other people to be kind and patient with us. We don’t appreciate the rude driver, the impatient shopper, or the individual who can never seem to forgive us. We want others to understand our imperfections, forgiving us our faults and encouraging us to be better. Is it so unreasonable then that we should do the same to them. As Jesus also taught, “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Mathew 7:12; ESV)
This mercy and kindness that God wants extends past just overlooking or forgiving men their wrongs done to us. He also wants us to be caring for those with needs. Mercy is shown through feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, through caring for the fatherless, and visiting the widow. Sometimes people will find themselves in bad conditions because of silly choices. Mercy helps them anyway. Sometimes it is not their fault; but it really doesn’t matter. God helps us, as His creation, because He loves us, even when most of our problems are of our own creation.
Beyond just not treating people in the wrong way, God wants us to be active in treating people in the right way.
When Jesus was preaching, He saw a spiritual deficiency in many of the religious people around Him. He said to them, ““Woe to you,… For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23; ESV) Elsewhere He commanded them saying, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13)
If we can’t learn this lesson, we are not going to make God happy. Jesus warned us: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15; ESV)
God wants us to be kind and merciful. What a more blessed world this would be if we lived up to His expectations of us.
Next week we will conclude this examination of Micah 6:8. As always, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have questions or comments please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.