This article is by guest blogger Ty Woznek. He is the senior pastor of Heartland Church in Norfolk, Nebraska. Ty and I have been friends for several years. We often discuss theology, Christian philosophy, and church practice, sometimes on a weekly basis. Ty worked on a project concerning Micah 6:8 in seminary, and I asked if he would share it.
At a time when justice is a word often used, seldom understood, and rarely defined, Micah 6:8 gets thrown around often. The emphasis thrown around is that we are to do justice: “See! God cares about justice, so critical theory is right!” That is not the point, and the verse stands against critical theory. Pastor Tim said I should take a swing at this so here we go: Micah 6:8 is an indictment on Judah, and by application can be an indictment on us. It often is used as a cute lake house sign, but should be taken more as a warning.
The Law, The Prophets, The Writings, Oh, My!
The First Testament is broken into three parts: Law, Prophets, Writings. The Law, better understood as instruction more than regulations, is the cornerstone to understanding the Old Testament. The Prophets describe and warn about not following The Law. The Writings give encouragement that following The Law can be done, even when others are not. Micah is part of The Prophets, and his book is a lawsuit against Judah on behalf of God. This is significant because the concept of justice is in the context of The Law: God’s instruction on justice, mercy, and walking humbly with Him. Justice is defined.
When we get into trouble, we often run to excuses. One of the most often used excuses is “I didn’t know!” As a parent, our response is often, “I already told you, there is no excuse.” The tone and point of Micah 6:8 is that God already showed us, so we are without excuse. The following verses describe the punishment that Judah will not be able to escape. They were told, knew, and so are without excuse. Too often we do the same with God. “Well, I didn’t know!” Between creation, our consciences and the Bible, we too are without excuse. This is the argument Paul lays out in Romans 1-3. Again, there, The Law is the cornerstone. The tone is we are in trouble.
The other words matter too, like mercy
The constant use of Micah 6:8 not only misses what justice is and the tone of the verse, it glosses over two other critical concepts: mercy and humility. Mercy is withholding what is due a person. God showed what this looked like. Specifically on the Day of Atonement, when all Israel’s sins were placed on a sacrifice that would be slaughtered to appease God’s wrath. This is a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, who died for us and in our place. This is the argument that Paul makes in Romans 4-11. The justice required by The Law was fulfilled by Jesus. In Romans 4-8, this is described as grace, but in 9-11 it is described as mercy, that God might show mercy to all. The concept of mercy frames in how we do justice.
The other words matter too, like humility
The constant use of Micah 6:8 leaves out the key to avoiding Micah’s indictment: walking humbly with your God. God gave instruction to how Israel should live, with numerous examples in The Law, and numerous warnings by The Prophets. The issue is we much prefer to be our own god rather than obey God. Micah demonstrates that our relationship with God is to be personal, hence he uses the phrase “your God.” God is not a distant judge, but a personal Father. Paul describes walking humbly with God in Romans 12 through the end of the book. Given our personal relationship with God, we serve out of humility, not arrogance because of the mercy He has shown us. The concept of humility points to how we should live.
Micah 6:8 is an indictment against critical theory
Micah 6:8, loved by progressive Christians, stands as an indictment against them. First, justice is defined by God in The Law. In The Law, we are to treat others better than how we were treated “remember, you too were once slaves in Egypt.” Or, as Paul stated “offer your bodies as living sacrifices … repay no one evil for evil.”
Second, we are to love mercy. The Law says “You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.” Or, as Paul stated “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”
Finally, we are to walk humbly with our God, for we all deserve God’s wrath, but He chose to give us mercy. It is arrogant for us to become judge after God has granted us mercy. The Law says “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Paul repeats this critical point.
The point of Micah 6:8 stands as an indictment against critical theory and the progressive Christians who push it. Such misdefined justice robs people of the gift of mercy, and arrogantly sits as judge in place of God.
But how is it an indictment
Critical theory views people through wrongs suffered, hence the focus on “justice.” The philosophical foundations of such leaves or explicitly rejects God in their view of justice. Defining right or wrong apart from God leads to more injustice. Nature, ourselves, and the Bible testify against this. Critical theory is a victim mentality, which keeps people always enslaved in some sense. Rather than live better than one was treated, critical theory seeks vengeance. A proponent of critical theory will see an act of kindness as a matter of justice before it is an act of charity. Finally, critical theory is the philosophical tower of Babel, seeking to right all historical wrongs while fundamentally misunderstanding not only history, but that they are no better than their ancestors. Thus, any logic, or fact that stands against “their truth,” will be strongly attacked or ignored.
The log in our own eye
While the verse stands against critical theory, it can stand as an indictment against us as well. If we are not living according to truth, if we are not operating out of mercy, and if we are not actively pursuing God, Micah 6:8 stands against us as well. The verse should be a reminder of the incredible gift we have in the Gospel. We cannot live up to God’s justice, but Jesus did so for us. We do not deserve God’s mercy, but Jesus died in our place. We often fail at walking humbly with our God, but Jesus conquered sin and death, and sits as our defending lawyer.
Micah 6:8 says we are without excuse, and the Gospel says we are not without hope. We must do justice by standing against critical theory. We must love mercy, knowing we are guilty before God apart from His mercy in the Gospel. We must walk humbly with our God by pointing to Jesus as the author and perfecter of not only our faith, but of justice. If you love justice, are you also merciful and humble? We need all three.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.