By Verónica Martínez-Gallegos
In today’s world, perhaps we have witnessed injustice towards a vulnerable person. Perhaps an innocent child, an elderly woman, or a person belonging to an ethnic minority group.
How do you feel when you see these injustices towards vulnerable people? Helpless, frustrated, fearful, distant, paralyzed, or apathetic? What is your response when you observe injustices? Do you remain silent? Are you moved towards mercy to help the suffering person?
The Old Testament prophets were commissioned to speak publicly on issues of social injustice, disobedience, divine discipline, repentance, and hope, with the purpose of drawing the attention of God’s people. This was the case with the prophetic task of Micah, one of the minor prophets, who demonstrated a deep concern for injustices created by social oppression.
In Micah, we are presented with the picture of a divided people. On one side we see a suffering people, yet on the other side, oppressive people. As expected, during this time Micah’s message was not well received by the oppressors who were in a position of power.
The prophet Micah’s message can be summarized in God’s demand from the people: to do justice, have mercy, and worship only God. “God has told you, mortals, what is good in God’s sight. What else does the Eternal ask of you. But to live justly and to love kindness and to walk with your True God in all humility?” (Micah 6: 8).
Micah exhorts God’s people to abandon their practices of oppressing the most vulnerable and calls them to repentance as a way that leads them to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
According to commentator Daniel J. Simundson, Micah chapter 6 opens with a covenant claim between God and the people of Israel[i]. The mountains and hills would serve as a jury to decide between the Lord or the people of God (Micah 6: 1-2). God raises the question: “My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me!” (Micah 6: 3). God briefly reminds them of the redemption story, a sort of creed that recalls key periods in Israel’s history when God’s activity was clearest (Micah 6: 4-5).
Then the people ask: “With what should I come before the Lord, and bow down before God on high?” (Micah 6: 6-7). The people continue by asking about presenting extravagant offerings. Micah then gives a message to the people of God, which affirms that God is much more interested in their daily way of life than in their religious practices (James 1:27).
The prophet Amos confirms the same by emphasizing that God “hates” such superficial efforts of piety if they are not accompanied by lives dedicated to justice and righteousness (Amos 5: 21-24).
According to this, what God expects is simple, but at the same time demands action:
Practice justice – be fair to one another.
Justice is something that people want, but just wanting it or just complaining about injustice is not enough. The idea of this concept demands action from God’s people to work for righteousness and equality for all people.
According to Elizabeth George, God calls us not only to personal righteousness, but also to social responsibility[ii]. As Christian leaders, God has placed us in specific circles of influence such as our family, work, church, and community. In these places, our voice and opinion can make a difference in being willing to open roads and bridges for people who are marginalized.
A bridge is a symbol of connection between places. A bridge also creates possibilities and opens avenues to discover new horizons. We can be bridges of connection and help other people expand their possibilities to promote justice. Nonetheless, this also calls on us to be aware of our own context. Have you ever reflected on your privileges? I invite you to reflect on the place where God has placed you so that you can create bridges of blessings for less privileged people.
Love mercy – be kind to those who are vulnerable.
Since my childhood, I have witnessed in church the care women have for one another in difficult times. When we are in the midst of chaos and suffering, a helping hand is most needed. It is precisely here where our interdependencies intertwine. As God’s creation, we are destined to be in relationship. Justo González invites us to grow deeper in our knowledge of human relationships: “To be fully human is to be for others, and, therefore, the human creation of God is not complete until there is no other for whom to be. To be fully human is to be-for-others.”[iii] To be for others means to deprive myself of my comfort in order to help other people who are going through difficulties.
On the other hand, mercy is also a call from God to take care of other people with kindness and goodness. According to Daniel J. Simundson, the word “goodness” has to do with love, loyalty, and fidelity, key elements for interpersonal relationships.[iv]
To love mercy is a call to action to be present for other people when they need us most. It is part of the great commandment, to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22: 36-40).
Humble yourself before your God – and worship Him as your only God.
As Christian leaders we are called to practice genuine faith in God, which bears our kindness, compassion, justice, and humility (Galatians 5:22). Elizabeth George comments that “Micah highlights the inherent relationship between authentic spirituality and social ethics.[v]“
Some scholars have pointed out that the word “humbly” might be better understood as “carefully”. The key word in this verse is “walk” (halak). We must walk with God, careful to put God first and live according to God’s will.
As we walk with God, we can please God with godly living and thus demonstrate these qualities by doing justice, and having mercy in our relationships at work and church, and with our family and community.
So then, what is the best thing we can do? Practice justice, be merciful, and walk continuously worshiping our God.
Rev. Verónica Martínez-Gallegos, M.Div., BCC, ACPE Certified Associate Educator and Board Certified Chaplain. Assistant Director Department of Spiritual Care and Education, Charlotte, NC. She also serves with her husband who is the senior pastor of La Voz de La Esperanza Baptist Church in the same city. Additionally, she serves as the coordinator of CLLI in North Carolina and is part of our CLLI faculty.
[i] Daniel J. Simundson. The New Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. VII. The Book of Micah, página 577.
[ii] Elizabeth George, ED. Reina Valera, 1960, Biblia de la Mujer Conforme al Corazón de Dios, pp. 1135.
[iii] Justo González. Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective, página 133.
[iv] Daniel, pp. 580.
[v] Elizabeth, pp. 1128.