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Outside The Gates

True Christianity 

Micah 6:6-8

Lesson audio

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.

Act Justly

What does it mean, to act justly? I submit for your consideration two areas in which this applies to most of us.

Act in honesty and fairness

This 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 view.

First we may consider our business dealings. We must act in honesty and fairness in such areas as:

  • Our 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.
  • Our customers. Do you stick to the letter of the contract, looking for loopholes? Or do you deliver the meaning of the contract?
  • The IRS – do you pay your taxes with honesty, or are your books missing some revenue?

This 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.

This 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?

The oppression of the unfortunate

How 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?

Can 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.

Righteousness is blessed by God

The 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 sacrifice.[1] We may not be able to solve all problems of justice – but we can attempt to solve the ones God puts in our path.

Love Mercy

Just 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.

Note that “unmerited” may be understood in two sense:

  • It 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[2] we risk condemnation because we do not have mercy, as He had mercy on us.
  • It 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.

Either 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?

To “love” mercy

It is a curious phrasing, to “love” mercy. We can understand being obligated to be merciful, but how are we to love mercy?

  • The Lord loves a cheerful giver, we are told[3]. 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.
  • There 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.

As 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.

To love Mercy

It 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 be merciful?

  • Because you have received mercy! You can’t repay it – but you can pass it on.
  • God is his attributes; God is Mercy itself. Therefore to love mercy is to love the Merciful One.
  • Because God blesses the merciful.[4]

Walk humbly

A lifestyle, not a closet thought

Just 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:

  • Gentle – those who are weak know the need for it, those who are strong in the Lord have the strength for it.
  • Patient – does so much really depend upon you that you cannot wait for the less able?
  • Kind – one who has been blessed, knowing the God who blessed him, can pass along his benefits without taking credit for them.

This 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?

Service as imitation

Imitating Christ comes in three steps:

  • First, 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.
  • Next, you must know Him. By study and prayer, by learning from his chastening, you must see His goodness, righteousness and power.
  • When 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.[5]

Humble – Eyes Open

Humility 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!

Humility 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.

Even in humility we follow the example of Christ:

Joh 14:31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

Imitate Christ – act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

[1] Proverbs 21:3

[2] Matthew 18:32-35

[3] 2nd Corinthians 9:7

[4] Matthew 5:7

[5] Did you ever imitate a sports hero?

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