002: An Ancient Framework for Relating to the Rest of the World
Hello friends! Welcome to the Walk Humble podcast. I’m your host, Brandon Cox, and while this is technically episode #2, episode #1 was more of a trailer sharing a bit of vision for things to come. This is kind of the real inaugural episode in which we’re going to start digging into life, faith, and relationships.
The world is a mess, am I right? On the one hand are all the messes we deal with living on this planet. Devastating earthquakes and pandemics, wildfires and wars, economic inequality, climate change… the list just goes on.
But what’s even harder, for most of us, is that we can’t seem to struggle through the suffering together. We are divided! All suffering is suffering, but suffering in the area of relating to each other just compounds it all. Most of our deepest, long-term pain comes from our inability to sustain healthy relationships with other people.
So I want to talk today about a framework for relating to the world around you, but I want to start with an odd question and an ancient passage of Hebrew scripture.
On the day that I decided to launch Walk Humble, I was writing a bit of content for my other website, PreachingForChange.com, where I often share message ideas for pastors based on the upcoming texts in the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s okay if none of that makes sense to you. What’s important is that I opened to the assigned readings for that Fourth Sunday of Epiphany and staring at me was Micah 6:1-8.
The question the prophecy tackles is one all of us ask at some point in our lives, if not on an ongoing basis. It’s this:
What does God require from me?
If I’m created with intentionality by a personal God and I’m placed in this harsh and unforgiving environment called planet Earth upon my birth, what, exactly, does God WANT from me?
Here’s what Micah had to say about that question:
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, 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 1:6-8 NRSV
All kinds of people approach God in different ways, and one of the ways ancient civilizations would often worship was through animal sacrifices. We’re not getting into that issue here except to say that Micah came along and challenged the sacrificial system and said, basically, Is that really what God is looking for?
And his answer is No. He doesn’t want the blood of animals. He doesn’t want precious oil poured out or incense burned. He doesn’t even want something extreme like our firstborn child.
Nope. God makes known what he really wants from us – three things.
- Do justice.
- Love kindness.
- Walk humbly with God.
That’s it. Just those three things. That’s all God really wants from us.
I want to unpack those three ideas but first, I want to point out that these really make up a great framework for relating to the rest of the world.
How should I work through the hot button political issues of my day? Or sensitive topics like racism, gun violence, or abortion? How should I treat people with whom I strongly and seriously disagree?
The answer to those questions becomes more clear when we do three simple things. 1. Do justice. 2. Love kindness. 3. Walk humbly with God.
Let me run through them individually, but then what I really want to do is focus on why these three pieces of wisdom work so well when we balance them together.
1. To “Do Justice”
The Bible has a lot to say about justice. It’s one of God’s primary concerns for his creation, humanity. He cares deeply about how we treat each other, but he especially cares about how we treat those who are oppressed and disenfranchised.
Justice is a two-sided coin. On the one side, we have the punishment of wrongdoers, oppressors, and those who harm other people or serve their own needs at the expense of other people. We talk about “criminal justice” because of this sense that we need to hold people accountable for the harm they cause.
So one side of justice is bringing down the oppressor.
The other side of the justice coin is lifting up the oppressed. It’s fixing or replacing systems that keep people from flourishing. It’s fighting against inequity and inequality. It’s making sure that everyone gets a fair shot at thriving.
We use the phrase “social justice” to talk about this side of justice. The work of social justice is the work of making things equal and fair for everybody.
Most of us get one side of justice and minimize the other side. We want the guilty punished, but we don’t see a need to address systemic inequality. Or we want to work on systemic injustice, but we forget about personal responsibility.
What is really important to remember here is that we are to DO justice, not just believe in it. It’s one thing to say we agree with the principle of justice. It’s quite another to say we’re willing to make our own contribution of energy and emotion to the cause of helping everyone to flourish under justice.
2. To “Love Kindness”
Some translations translate the word “kindness” here as mercy. In fact, that’s what most people are probably more familiar with. But Micah isn’t talking about mercy as letting the guilty go free without being punished. Rather, Micah is talking about a kindness that expects no repayment.
Works of mercy and kindness are when we use our own time, energy, or resources to help someone who may be at a disadvantage when it comes to helping themselves, and we do it without expecting to be paid or rewarded.
And the key here is that, as with justice, it’s not enough to like or agree that kindness is good. We’re instructed to love kindness.
3. To “Walk Humbly”
And then there is walking humbly. This phrase from Micah’s prophecy inspired the name of this podcast – Walk Humble. In fact, because “walk” is a verb, proper grammar dictates we would say “walk humbly,” as in the translation of Micah’s words into English.
We chose to purposely get this wrong so we could convey an idea – that it’s not so much about how we are walking, but about who we are. It’s not just about behavior, but about our state of being.
Walking humble implies two core ideas.
First, to walk implies forward progress.
We don’t get the luxury of having arrived. We have more growing to do. More learning to do. More mistakes to make and more recovery to walk through. We have a long way ahead of us and we need to keep taking steps forward.
Second, to walk humbly with your God implies that there’s never a need to pretend we’ve arrived.
We get to be honest about where we are and how far we have to go. We get to admit that we don’t have it all together, no matter how hard we try to sustain the image of maturity and perfection.
My old Pastor, Rick Warren, said, “If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.”
Here’s the thing. We are social creatures. We were wired for relationships. But we’re broken, too. We’re broken by our fear of exposure and real intimacy. And the pathway to actual intimacy and to healthy relationships is through vulnerability and authenticity.
And vulnerability is SO HARD, isn’t it?
But walking humbly is the way to walk in health, holiness, and happiness.
Let me get back to my bigger point. These three values or actions of doing justice, loving mercy or kindness, and walking humbly with God give us the ultimate framework for relating to our world.
I can navigate anything if I do so while living out these three values. And here’s the beautiful part: It’s SO simple.
That’s not to say that things don’t get complicated, but I don’t have to have a list of a hundred rules to keep. I just need to balance these three values.
That’s what God wants. Expects. Requires. To do justice. To love kindness. To walk humbly with him. And… he’s along for the journey to empower us for this walk.
That’s it for today. If you want to support or partner with Walk Humble, just go to WalkHumble.com and click on “Support” at the top. Remember to subscribe and share this with somebody else, maybe via a text, maybe via social media.
And, if you have questions or want to reach out, shoot me an email at email@example.com.