Everyone wants justice — equality, fairness, rightness. But life isn’t fair. Hard workers lose their jobs; drunk drivers kill innocent people; powerful men manipulate the system to get what they want. Cheaters lurk everywhere. What should our response be in the face of such widespread injustice? How do we seek justice?
Micah 6:8 gives us the answer: “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.”
Only God is perfectly just and our desire for justice comes from him. Justice is not merely about defending personal rights and condemning social evils. Biblical justice starts in the heart. It is inseparable from love and humility. This verse explains what God expects of a person who seeks him. God requires three ongoing actions:
- Act justly.
- Love mercy.
- Walk humbly with God.
1. Act Justly
These familiar words help to explain what acting justly means:
Impartial. As disciples of Jesus, acting justly means making fair decisions in our business and personal lives. James instructs us not to show favoritism to beautiful, “important,” or rich people (James 2:1-13). Do I show more courtesy to a well-dressed business woman than I do to a homeless man or a person in drag? God stamped his image on every human being and I acknowledge that truth when I treat all people with dignity.
Accurate. Truthful living means I refuse to exaggerate to make myself look better than my actions prove I really am. I deceive only myself when I try to rationalize my decisions or behavior.
Lawful. God establishes governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). He commands me to obey both the rules of the land and of the road, and to respect everyone in authority, regardless of whether or not I agree with him or her politically.
Righteous. The Bible provides our moral standard; it defines right and wrong. The words and actions of a person of integrity align with God’s truth. He or she does what is right even when no one is watching — even when it takes more time or costs more money.
Acting justly requires action, not mere talk. Speaking about injustice — abortion, human trafficking, displaced people — may make me appear caring, but words do nothing to ease the pain of those suffering. Biblical justice is never divorced from acts of love and mercy.
2. Love Mercy
Let’s face it. Everyone likes to escape the negative consequences of wrong behavior. Whether a sigh of relief or the thrill of a narrow escape, averting punishment feels good. But is that mercy?
Mercy doesn’t mean letting injustice prevail. Paul tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s mercy for us cost Jesus his life. Jesus took the penalty and punishment that we deserved.
Mercy will cost us comfort and time. It will cost us money and status. And it will give us heartache.
Facing insults without retaliating; forgiving for the umpteenth time; graciously bearing the consequences of someone else’s sin; reaching out to the lonely, neglected or addicted without expecting anything in return. This is what loving mercy looks like.
Further reading: 5 Steps to Loving Someone You Don't Really Like.
I love mercy because I stand justified before God because of his mercy. When that truth takes hold of my heart, I understand that loving mercy and living mercifully reveals God to those around me.
As a follower of Jesus, the command to love mercy reveals my heart. Too often I love justice and am rather miserly with mercy. My skewed idea of justice lets me demand justice from others rather than seek to live it out myself, and makes other people face the consequences of their actions. Arrogance creates this mindset and I find myself living the exact opposite of God’s desire for me, which is why humility is so important.
3. Walk Humbly with God
Though the world tries to tell me otherwise, I didn’t make myself. God created all things, including me. When I acknowledge that everything I am and have comes from God, I understand his authority to lead me and my need to surrender to him.
God created all people in his image (Genesis 1:27). Intelligence, beauty, and physical ability all come from him. So, no person is worth more than another person. I walk humbly with God by valuing each life and respecting all people.
As well, God entrusted the care of the earth to people (Genesis 1:28). Seeing ourselves as stewards — not owners — keeps us from exploiting the world for our profit. Protecting earth’s beauty and carefully managing its resources are ways to walk humbly with God.
Further reading: Hey Christians! The Earth Needs Saving Too.
Humility holds the key to both acting justly and loving mercy.
As I recognize how much God has shown mercy to me, humility empowers me to act justly toward others even when they don’t treat me the same way. Apart from God’s grace, I have nothing. Apart from God’s forgiveness and mercy, I deserve eternal condemnation. I love offering mercy because I realize how much I need it! In humility I remember that I am on level ground with everyone else.
The power to walk humbly with God, to love mercy, and to act justly comes from the Holy Spirit — God himself. God invites me — and you — by his power, to join his work. What an awesome privilege God gives us when he calls us to demonstrate to a confused world what acting justly and loving mercy really looks like.