What do you look for in a good breakfast?
When it comes to the meal that starts the day, which some people consider to be the most important meal of the day, some people look for a breakfast that’s healthy with all the latest superfoods to give their day a balanced start. Others look for a breakfast that tastes good, with all the artificial colours and additives that help to kick the day off with a sugar-fuelled bang. There have been people I’ve known who have looked for a coffee and cigarette to start the day, while others prefer to skip the meal all together.
What we look for can also be thought of as the things that we require. They might be what we have for breakfast, but also for just about anything – for example the possessions we buy, relationships we might hope for, our paid or unpaid work, the church we belong to or attend, and so on. When we are looking for something, we usually have a set of requirements that help us determine whether or not they are what we want or hope for.
What do you think God looks for in us and in our lives? Sometimes when I hear people talk about grace it can almost sound like God doesn’t have any requirements of us at all. If we have our own requirements of something as simple as our breakfast, however, it makes sense that God would also have requirements of what he’s looking for in us and in our lives.
Micah 6:1-8 gives us a good indication of what God is looking for in our lives. Micah reminds his readers of the good God had done for the Jewish people by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and giving them the Promised Land. As signs of their thanks for what God had given them, Micah explains that God doesn’t want empty religious rituals like sacrifices. Instead, Micah tells us that what God requires of his people and what he is looking for in our lives is ‘to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8b NLT).
How does that sound to you? Does this sound like a good way to live?
On the one hand, having three requirements, three things that God is looking for in our lives, might sound simple. When we start digging into these ideas, though, there is a lot to them.
To begin with, ‘To do what is right’ as the NLT translates it, can also be translated as to ‘act justly’ (NIV). Justice is firstly about making sure that we are doing what is right by other people, not just for ourselves, so it includes a focus on others and their wellbeing. It also includes working for others so they experience justice in their own lives. We can look to the Book of Judges in the Old Testament for how ancient people sought justice. God sent people to liberate those who were being oppressed and to right the wrongs that they were experiencing. Acting justly isn’t just about having a moral compass that helps us to decide what is right or wrong for us. It is doing what we can to make the wrong things in this world right again and helping others find justice when they are wronged in any way.
‘Mercy’ can be understood as showing kindness and goodness to others. To ‘love mercy’ then is to have our hearts set on being kind and doing good for all the people in our lives. What makes mercy even more challenging is that it is reserved for people who don’t deserve it but who still need it. Mercy is often interpreted as ‘undeserved kindness’ and so it’s about treating people better than they deserve, or than we might think they deserve, and doing good for others no matter who they are or what they have done. We can think of ‘mercy’ as indiscriminate kindness to all people, including those who deserve it the least but need it the most.
‘To walk humbly with our God’ means that we are constantly in step with God in every aspect of our lives, reflecting the goodness and character of God in everything we say and do. Sometimes when I hear people talk about God walking with them I wonder if we think that gives us permission to go in any direction in our lives that we want and expect God to follow us. Let’s face it, sometimes we can act like children who run away from their parents, not because we’re being vindictive or spiteful, but just because something has grabbed our attention and it is a lot more important to us than the parent or adult who is with us. ‘To walk humbly with our God’ means to remember who we are in God’s presence, that we get things wrong, that we need him in our lives, and to learn from God a new and different way to live our lives which is faithful to him and in step with who he is (see Galatians 5:25).
When we start exploring these three requirements which Micah gives us, we can see that there is a lot of depth to them. However, we don’t need to feel daunted or overwhelmed by them. One explanation of grace that I’ve come across is that God supplies us with what he requires of us. When we explore God’s grace to us in Jesus, we can find what God is looking for in our relationship with Jesus. God acts justly in our lives as he makes what’s wrong in us right again by forgiving us through Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. God loves mercy by treating us better than we deserve, showing us unlimited kindness and goodness for Jesus’ sake even though we don’t deserve it but we desperately need it. God walks in humility with us throughout our lives in Jesus who came to us from his heavenly home to become one of us, take on our humanity, serve us by suffering and dying for us, and to journey with us throughout our lives in all of our joys, successes, difficulties, suffering and uncertainties. In Jesus we encounter our God who does what is right for us, who loves to show us mercy, who walks in humility with us, and who gives us everything he is looking for as a gift through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
How might your week look if you were to commit to live in the ways God is looking for? How might you be able to do what is right, not just for yourself but also for others around you, and to act justly in everything you do? How might you be able to show mercy, undeserved kindness, to people who might not deserve it but who still need it? And how might you be able to walk humbly with your God, not just going your own way and expecting him to keep up, but learning a new way as you walk in step with Jesus as his disciple?