This lesson is the first of a six week series
given by Eastside Christian Church titled, “Outside the Gates.” As the lesson
material seemed somewhat unsuitable for our class (in style, not in content) it
seemed good to cast it in our more normal form. Those who would like to obtain
the materials for this series should inquire of Eastside at www.eastside.com. As of this writing, no
policy has been established regarding fees, but I presume these will be in
accord with the desire to build up the church.
Mic 6:6-8 NIV
With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old? (7) Will the LORD be
pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (8)
He has showed you, O man, 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.
does it mean, to act justly? I submit for your consideration two areas in
which this applies to most of us.
in honesty and fairness
is hardly a surprise to a true Christian. But we might remember that this is
part of the picture the world has of a true Christian as well. “A real
Christian wouldn’t have done …” Complete the sentence and you have the world’s
we may consider our business dealings. We must act in honesty and fairness in
such areas as:
employees (and employer). When you make a commitment, can others rely on
it? Do your employees know that you will treat them fairly, if only
within your means? Or are you suspected of favoritism? Does your
employer know you can be trusted? With such questions you may know
yourself better, as you are indeed known.
customers. Do you stick to the letter of the contract, looking for
loopholes? Or do you deliver the meaning of the contract?
IRS – do you pay your taxes with honesty, or are your books missing some
is not the only place for honesty and fairness. Another is in your family
life. Does dad follow through on his commitments? (Please note that violating
your wedding vows is dishonesty as well as disloyalty.) If you are the
executor, are possessions distributed with an even hand, or do you keep the
best for yourself? Do you “play favorites” – with your family or with your
kids? Dad may be mean, but it’s an even-handed sort of mean.
aspect of fairness and honesty also applies to your relationships with your
neighbors (see Good Samaritan for a definition of neighbor.) Do you return
what you borrow? Is his loud party a reason to call the cops, while yours is
just good friends having good times?
oppression of the unfortunate
often have you seen it happen: someone buys a car that’s a lemon, or is taken
advantage of by some government employee – or elected official. The only thing
you can find to say is, “Well, it’s probably not worth hiring a lawyer over.”
Example: I’m told that in Massachusetts eminent domain proceedings start with
the state ceasing your property and paying you one dollar for it. You then get
the right to sue for the rest. If you can afford the lawyer. For the working
poor, this is outright theft. But you can’t afford the lawyer, right?
you at least afford the outrage? The wicked get away with this because those
who are righteous and uninvolved won’t help the oppressed. They hold recall
elections, you know.
is blessed by God
usual failure in justice is that we “could have” done something we “should
have.” We thought about it, but didn’t do anything about it. But we should
see clearly from the Scriptures that God desires righteousness more than
We may not be able to solve all problems of justice – but we can attempt to
solve the ones God puts in our path.
exactly what is mercy? Let me give you a working definition: it is our
equivalent of grace. It is our unmerited favor blessing someone else. It is
therefore our imitation of Christ. Christ had mercy on us; we are to have
mercy on others.
that “unmerited” may be understood in two sense:
may mean that those on whom we have mercy have offended us, and in justice
do not deserve our favor. But like the unmerciful servant
we risk condemnation because we do not have mercy, as He had mercy on us.
may mean those people who are unfortunate, in poor circumstances, in
hospital, in jail – the list is a long one – who have not deserved any
favors from us. They are, to us, the innocent undeserving.
way, our favor on them is not an obligation – at least not to them. But should
we not pass along the grace we have been given?
is a curious phrasing, to “love” mercy. We can understand being obligated to
be merciful, but how are we to love mercy?
Lord loves a cheerful giver, we are told.
Chrysostom explains this nicely. Suppose you are the person who
distributes gifts to the poor from the church – in his time the only
welfare system. If you give grudgingly – even if it’s not your money –
you soon become bitter. But the cheerful giver overlooks the sins of the
recipient to bring the grace of Christians.
is also the question of compassion. We are told to be compassionate,
which is to be one whose emotions are trained to sympathy for the
unfortunate. If you love mercy, your compassion will grow – and so will
your heart for the Lord.
our Lord taught it,
Luk 6:35-36 NIV
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to
get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the
Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (36) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
is a fact: you cannot sustain a merciful life style motivated by the desire to
be a merciful person. Sooner or later, that desire turns into, “I’ll be
merciful – later.” Being merciful is a result, not a cause. So why would you
you have received mercy! You can’t repay it – but you can pass it on.
is his attributes; God is Mercy itself. Therefore to love mercy is to
love the Merciful One.
God blesses the merciful.
lifestyle, not a closet thought
what does it mean to be humble? We may see it from the outside looking in this
way. It is the lifestyle of one who is gentle, patient and kind:
– those who are weak know the need for it, those who are strong in the
Lord have the strength for it.
– does so much really depend upon you that you cannot wait for the less
– one who has been blessed, knowing the God who blessed him, can pass
along his benefits without taking credit for them.
lifestyle often results from God’s chastening. Once he has you convinced that
He is God, and you’re not, you begin to see honestly. For the truth is that we
are less than a flyspeck before God. His mercy changes that; should our lives
show that we know the proper relationship between God and His people?
Christ comes in three steps:
you must know yourself. That voyage of discovery will reveal a sinner;
one who is powerless over the things that master him, one who deserves
nothing from a righteous God.
you must know Him. By study and prayer, by learning from his chastening,
you must see His goodness, righteousness and power.
you compare the two of you, the answer is clear. The right thing to do is
to worship Him, for He is worthy of it (and we are not.) One fine way of
worship is to be like Him.
– Eyes Open
is perhaps best expressed in where you keep your eyes. If you are looking down
on others, you can’t look up to God. Set your mind on things above!
is nothing but the honest reaction to a comparison between us and God. In the
world’s eyes we may be great; but matters look differently in God’s view.
Permit me an example:
Mat 15:22-28 NIV
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son
of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from
demon-possession." (23) Jesus did not
answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away,
for she keeps crying out after us." (24)
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (25) The woman came and knelt before him.
"Lord, help me!" she said. (26) He
replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to
their dogs." (27) "Yes, Lord,"
she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters'
table." (28) Then Jesus answered,
"Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her
daughter was healed from that very hour.
in humility we follow the example of Christ:
but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my
Father has commanded me.
Christ – act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.