By Charles E. McCracken
Christians are not bound to a fabricated list of oppressors vs. oppressed that brands victims with culpability for crimes of the aggressors. Biblically grounded common sense provides the standard for determining the difference between good and evil— victim and bully. The perpetrators of violent attacks are the aggressors and those hurt by them are the victims. Charles E. McCracken
Read Today’s Full Text: Micah 6:1-8
About a decade ago, a new crusade for social justice surfaced in churches of North America. I got my first exposure via high-tech, emotion-packed imagery during a Good Friday service. Photos of injustice in the world and depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion alternated with the reverberation of nails being driven into the hands and feet of our Lord.
The combined impact of the video and audio was effective; the emotional state of the 1500 plus Christians in attendance was palpable. The presentation concluded with a deep voice quoting the text,
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8).
While I couldn’t help but wonder why it was necessary to co-opt Jesus’ suffering and death for the benefit of “justice and mercy,” a bigger question begged to be answered. Does the nouvelle message of justice and mercy really express the intent of this oft-quoted Scripture passage? How should people of faith respond?
The Foundation for Justice and Mercy
Micah’s words are found in the context of God’s indictment of Judah. The people of Judah thought God was being unreasonable and cynically suggested that bringing more and better sacrifices might appease Him (Mic. 6:6, 7).
Clarifying God’s indictment, Micah tells the people that pleasing God is not about how many or how impressive the sacrifices (v. 8). He reminded that they already knew what God required. Without a contrite and obedient heart demonstrated in daily life, any sacrifice is empty and displeasing to God. Pleasing God is not a matter of speculation. God had clearly articulated His requirement through Moses:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deut. 10:12-13).
Micah summarized the essential qualities that please God. Addressing his audience using the phrase, “O man,” he spoke to the nation as a whole while directing His message to every individual in the land.
Justice, mercy and humility exemplify true righteousness
These abstracts are not complex concepts. In point of fact, many rabbis believe that Micah’s quote provides a comprehensive one-line summary of the whole Law. Jesus similarly summarized the Law saying, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’” (Lk. 10:27). Both statements are at the heart of the issue.
The call to behave justly is personal
Merely talking about justice isn’t enough; and, coercing others to behave justly misses the point. Justice begins with a personal heart attitude that determines to always do what is just or right in our dealings with others. Promoting good, denouncing evil and maintaining integrity all fit under that category.
Mercy is inseparably linked to justice
The word “mercy” (Hebrew: hesed) is often translated lovingkindness conveying love in action much like the New Testament word agape. To love mercy reflects an eagerness to help those in need—the opposite of stinginess. The apostle James gives the New Testament counterpart saying, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble “(Jas. 1:27).
The Standard for Justice and Mercy Is Not to Forget to Help Those Who Have No Ability to Reciprocate
Summarizing the two previous requirements, Micah stresses the need, “to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). The word “walk” in Scripture consistently denotes behavior or way of life. The word translated “humbly” communicates modesty and an absence of arrogance, but also includes the idea of wisdom or care.
God is pleased with those whose lives are characterized by prudent humility before Him.
The Emphasis Is On Personal Responsibility
Micah’s straightforward message outlines the personal responsibility of each individual before God:
- treat others fairly,
- be generous with those in need, and
- behave modestly before God.
Living in accordance with God’s principles of social justice requires a clear perception of right and wrong
The popular trend of “justice and mercy” in some Christian circles may, however, be creating more confusion than help because it blurs distinctions.
Moral Reversal in Western Culture
Western culture—and the Christian community by extension—is currently in a state of confusion that can partly be explained by a fundamental shift that began materializing more than half a century ago.
The confusion in distinguishing right and wrong is the result of a virtually imperceptible shift of values that gained momentum in the 1960s when Critical Theory was introduced into college and university campuses. It was designed to deconstruct Western culture historically rooted in the Judeo-Christian worldview. Based on cultural Marxism, Critical Theory promotes a philosophy of “liberating tolerance,” more commonly known today as Political Correctness (PC).
The moral reversal—where right becomes wrong and wrong is right—is the consequence of substituting PC for a Judeo-Christian worldview. Biblical principles that once provided the objective societal guide for morality have been replaced with the subjective autonomy of the individual and personal experience. What was once considered indecent becomes acceptable; lies become equal to truth; and, moral equivalency justifies malevolent behavior.
Moral equivalence denies a moral hierarchy in any conflict of ideas or actions. For instance, journalist Melanie Phillips illustrates,
“Professor David Nutt, the British former chief advisor on drugs, claimed absurdly that taking the drug ecstasy is less dangerous than horseback riding. Since the pleasure of riding meant that people were prepared to risk death or brain damage from falling off a horse, he said, the risks from taking ecstasy and other drugs could be seen to be much exaggerated in comparison.” (1)
Using moral equivalence, the professor suggests that an activity that is inherently destructive is statistically no more harmful than one that is not.
Under this societal re-calibration, absolutes are no longer tolerated due to the equalizing pressure of PC. It must be noted, however, that while tolerance is the modus operandi of PC, individuals, groups and nations who espouse a Judeo-Christian worldview are not tolerated.
Hence, the cultural mainstream of the Western world is erroneously deemed the oppressor— while self-identified minorities and counter culture groups are falsely labeled “oppressed” regardless of their actions. This explains how comments made within 24 hours after the deadly attacks of 9/11 blamed the “imperialism” of the United States as justification for the attacks.
Regrettably, the confusion also impacting the Christian community is sadly observable in churches throughout North America. Sanctimoniously cautioning congregants not to judge the perpetrators of barbaric terrorist attacks because God loves them, the Christian community is forgetting the group that needs help most—the victims.
Getting it Right
People of faith need not be involved in a labeling game. Christians are not bound to a fabricated list of oppressors vs. oppressed that brands victims with culpability for crimes of the aggressors.
Biblically grounded common sense provides the standard for determining the difference between good and evil—victim and bully. The perpetrators of violent attacks are the aggressors and those hurt by them are the victims.
Grounded with a biblical foundation of justice and mercy, Christians will have no difficulty discerning that the gunmen who stormed a nursing home operated by Catholic nuns in Sana’a, Yemen in early March 2016 were the aggressors; and, the 16 people killed in the attack were victims. Those holding to a Judeo-Christian worldview must not forget that the four Wycliffe translators brutally murdered last month in Egypt were the victims—not the aggressors.
Christians must not forget that in the recent bus bombing in Jerusalem, the victims were the innocent people killed, injured and traumatized by the attack. If Christians truly want to get social justice right, we must return to the Bible.
Rather than allowing a PC-based form of social justice to cloud judgment, Christians must allow the Bible to define the parameters. The writer of the book of Hebrews summarizes genuine concern for justice and mercy saying, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:6).
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) Melanie Phillips, The World Turned Upside Down, (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 288.
1) A Sweet View of Children in the Old City of Jerusalem. Gila Brand [CC BY 2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons- Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.