When Micah says, “do justly” he is opening a whole can of worms. While it seems straight forward, in reality it can be quite complicated… (at least we make it so…we do this often).
We consider justice as something doled out in payment for a wrong committed. You did this to me, so I will rightly do that to you. You steal from me…I call the police to get it back, and arrest you, and send you to jail. Justice is served. Make’s sense, doesn’t it? In a civil society this kind of justice system is necessary to keep the peace, but we often take offenses much more personally that this. You hit me…I hit back; you lie to me…I withdraw my trust; you cheat me…I call you out so no one else will be cheated by you again. These are the kinds of things I believe Micah was getting at when he encouraged us to “do justly”. The real question is, who decides what is just? Me?…You? As Gandalf the Gray told Frodo in the mines:
“Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement for even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
In matters of the heart, man cannot be the arbiter deciding what is just between warring factions. When our feelings are hurt or when we are slighted, emotions rise to the surface and sway us into a mindset that desires the offender to feel the same kind of pain as we do…so now we are both hurting. There must be someone above all the fray, to see clearly the wrong done and the payment due. There must be an Authority who makes the rules and dishes out the penance. If not, then life is just a free-for-all parade of repaying hurts for hurts based on how anyone feels at that particular moment. All is justified because justice is whatever you or I say it is…and…if we all have our own say about what is just then there really is no justice.
For Christians, there is an ultimate Authority. There is a standard by which we are to live and a set of rules we can apply to determine what we are owed when wrongs are done to us: “Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord” Proverbs 29:26… “To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Luke 6:29… “But I say to you love your enemies, do good to them which hate you” Luke 6:27… “Thou shall not avenge…but shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lev 18:18. These and countless other verses show that not only are we not the deciders of what is just but when confronted with injustice, we are to take it. Turn the other cheek, not to repay evil for evil, not to point out the speck in someone’s eye because we likely have the whole tree stuck in ours. We cannot see clearly enough to dole out justice…we just don’t want to hurt any more. The most difficult of these verses is also the most representative of who we are and what we ought to do: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34
“…as I have loved you.” Ouch! That one hurts… I cannot begin to tell you the many ways Jesus has loved me…and all of it undeserved. I’ve held many nails in my hand and swung that hammer hard more times than I can count. Yet, he asked that the Father to forgive me simply because I did not know what I was doing. I think it is fair to say that the Good Lord knows exactly what justice is not…yet he loved us enough to make that sacrifice anyway…and Jesus asks us to do likewise.
You see, to “do justly” does not mean you hurt me so I can hurt you…that will not take away the pain we feel, it just means someone else is hurting now too. The only thing that can take away the pain is forgiveness…refusing to allow offense to take root…and instead show love with the hope that the offender will see their wrongs, repent, and find healing…just as we have in Christ. Repay evil with kindness, hatred with love, arrogance with humility, pain with healing, sorrow with joy…
Reach beyond justice – to mercy…