Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saying Versus Doing

Micah 6:6-8 was the passage I was required to learn for confirmation at a Congregationalist church in 1967. The UCC wasn't that big on memorising scripture, but we did some still in those days.  I don't know about now. V. 8 is a great social gospel verse - we would now say "social justice" because we want even less contact with the Christian part of it, I suppose. "He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Jimmy Carter used it at his inauguration.

Related: Our current sermon series and small-group discussion is on Matthew 5-7, with emphasis on the Beatitudes. Jesus puts emphasis on being not merely a hearer, but a doer. Years ago I noticed a word emphasis I had previously missed. Blessed are the peacemakers... It does not say peace-lovers, nor peace-praisers, nor peace-preachers, nor even peace-seekers, though I imagine one would get some credit for the latter. (Nor do I think Jesus was much talking about politics when he said this. He was talking about personal interactions. Sometimes political situations can be similar.) I applied this back to the Micah verses and saw them anew. It does not say to preach justice, but to do it. Not to praise justice, nor shame others about it, march in favor of it, nor (gulp) blog about it. Just do it, as the advertising slogan goes. We are to love kindness, remembering that love is an action, not a feeling of affection. We are to be kind, not just say Awwww over kindness to kitties and puppies on Facebook. Notice also that it does not say "Condemn unkindness," which human beings find to be more fun.  Walking humbly with your God is more poetic, a little tougher to describe, but I point to the word "walk," which is an action, not a feeling of adoration.

Talking and preaching are not eliminated.  They can themselves be actions, and encouragements to others. I am also not saying that condemnation of evil is unnecessary or valueless. It might be that our schoolbooks send us down a bad road. Children learn what famous men and women said, a natural emphasis for those who write textbooks.  Patrick Henry was not solely an orator, he led troops during the Revolution, he was a practicing attorney for important cases. Those are seldom mentioned, and his inn-keeping not at all, because those were actions of many others. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is remembered and studied.  She most wrote speeches. Women who founded schools or became physicians or attorneys are less-remembered. We praise Martin Luther King Jr for his oratory and writing and leading of protests, and they are part of the American scrapbook.  But Thurgood Marshall thought protests an unnecessary endangering of black people, as only the victories before the law mattered, and those were being accomplished (often by him).

We have gotten to a point where everyone, left and right, has decided that condemning things is the height of virtue. Doing justice has taken a back seat to ferreting out the injustice that other people are doing and posting it on social media.

It occured to me that this goes along with the topic quite well.


Donna B. said...

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Thank you, AVI. This... I needed to hear today.

GraniteDad said...

"love is an action, not a feeling of affection."

Nice calllback to Wesley, there.

Texan99 said...

You were posting the other day about snookering people into believing something false by peer pressure. I find it relatively easy to resist a false belief. For me the real challenge is to find the courage to act against the social current. Standing up like Atticus Finch, for instance, taking on the case of the falsely accused rapist. It would have been easy for his character to draw the right intellectual conclusion and speak cogently about it to his friends, or even in a public place. Harder to act, knowing the town would be against him and his kids might be targeted.

It shouldn't be possible for the Nazis to show up and drag the Jews away without all their neighbors defending them with their lives. But do I really think I'd have stopped a bullet? I read a moving story some years back about terrorists in North Africa somewhere attacking European tourists. The locals intervened, saying, these people are our guests, and if you shoot them you'll have to shoot us, too. That's peacemaking: putting your own body between the bad guy and his target. That's a louder "no" than writing essays. I would so much rather stay in the safety of my home.

james said...

"Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you.'"

I always found that "perform many miracles" to be a little odd. Didn't that mean that they were somehow working His will? Otherwise why would He ratify their prayers with miracles? But Jesus says they practice lawlessness.

The footnote for "miracles" says "or 'works of power'" Perhaps the deeds are more about amazement than about God--the lofty unexpectedly brought down. And it seems to be great fun to cast out demons by casting out the people. Some (e.g. Benny Hinn) specialize in fake miracles, but I think Jesus was speaking more generally.

I think the line went "Heal the dead; cast out the sick; and raise the devil." Or something close to that. Close enough?