Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mullings on Mercy

“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 (NIV)

Micah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses. I’ve claimed it for my life. Anytime I wonder what direction God wants me to take, I think about this verse. It always directs me with confidence.

As a rule-follower, I have no problem with the command to “act justly”. Honestly, I tend to be a bit over-the-top with being sure I do what is expected of me. It’s this command that has me realizing how very much I struggle with the next: “love mercy”. While my focus is on being obedient, I tend to notice and judge others who aren’t.

 As my sixth grader was getting ready for school she looked at her pants and asked “Why do my pockets bulge out like this?”

Slightly frustrated that her bottoms didn’t fit perfectly, I replied “I don’t know.” Noticing the irritation in my voice, I continued, “It’s a uniform. Is there really anyone who looks good at your school?”

“Some of the kids get away with wearing different colors…” my daughter started explaining.

Shaking my head, I remarked a little too openly, “I don’t understand it. Why make the rules if you’re not going to enforce them?” Almost as quickly as the words left my mouth, I realized how condemning I appeared.

God grabbed hold of my thoughts, aligning them more with His. “Actually, I can think of a lot of times people don’t follow God’s rules and it seems they are rewarded in life. I guess it’s a good lesson to learn. There are many people out there breaking His commandments and it doesn’t appear they ever receive their just punishment either.”

In hopes of participating in Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday writing prompt, I had been pondering the morning’s conversation all day. Why do I think every person should be punished for breaking the rules every time? Even I desire a little mercy sometimes.

Somewhere I heard that “mercy” is defined as “NOT getting the punishment you deserve”. There are numerous times in my life that I haven’t received the necessary consequences for my actions. The ultimate example being the mercy God has extended. A sense of freedom and gratitude overwhelms me when I think of this clemency.

If I can keep at the forefront of my mind the penalty I actually deserve, maybe I won’t be so inclined to cast judgment on others. Instead, maybe that is where love reigns.

It bothers me when people talk about God being love without a balance of justice. At the same time, God is not characterized as just without the balance of mercy. We cannot attribute one characteristic to God without the balance of all the others. Maybe this symmetry is what makes Him the ultimate definition of Love.

Maybe that is why the final command in this verse is to walk humbly with your God. It helps keep it all in perspective.