Justice or mercy?

Michael Chapman shares on Micah 6:8 in this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, a verse that his wife, Melissa, cut out and hung “on our wall while we lived in Guatemala. It is a reminder of God’s call to service that we hope to live out in our lives.”

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Michael writes that he remembers reading this passage with his oldest daughter “and reflecting on the words. I realized how hard it is to hold all of the pieces of this verse in equal tension.” 

There is a tension between justice and mercy, for instance: “If we act justly, we can become consumed in that pursuit . . . and this can overshadow our need to be loving and merciful.” Michael writes of “helping communities fight for their land” or of trying to help “people devastated by drought.” The work “can be all-consuming,” an end in itself.

How do we resolve that tension?

Michael suggests that the answer is “to walk humbly with God . . . bringing those issues of justice to God through prayer.” Because God isn’t asking us to pursue justice, but not too much. God isn’t asking us to be merciful, but only to the point that justice isn’t impeded. And God doesn’t ask us to do the work on our own. God wants to do it with us.

“Reading this verse aloud with my kids helped me to see,” Michael writes, “that God’s heart is to see all three of these things carried out in our lives.”

Justice and mercy go together. If we are willing, God shows us how. 

Eric Muhr