If We Are to Survive (Three Things to Teach Your Child)
O people: God has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? Only this: To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
In a couple of weeks, I will begin teaching a Confirmation Class for the youth in our church. What am I to teach them? Of course, I will teach them the basics about faith – God, Christ, the church, missions, and worship.
However, I am more concerned about those other complex but serious questions and fears they have about their lives.
No doubt they are concerned about what they are to do with their lives, what others are doing with their lives, and what kind of world will they live in – not only now but in the future. They are undoubtedly concerned about the character they are developing, and the question of their survivability in the world.
These are not only matters for youth in confirmation. They are also matters of concern to all youth, your son and daughter, your grandchild, niece and nephew. Indeed, they are concerns for all of us no matter what our age.
An ancient rabbinic saying states that for the world to survive, it needs to hold onto three things. It must hold onto truth, justice, and peace.
In our Scripture lesson from Micah, the prophet says something different but just as profound. The prophet says - “What does the Lord require of you? Only this – to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Only three things the Lord requires of you – act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. No long treatise about the meaning and purpose of life. Just three short deeds we all can remember.
Reading history, listening to recent news, observing leaders in all areas of life, and being involved in life, we discover that the world has never held onto any one of these three goals with a white-knuckle grip. With misogyny, sexual violence, domestic violence, nuclear threats, racial slurs and innuendos, the “me, mine, and ours first” attitude displayed by so many people today in our nation and world, at best we can surmise that while people may have toyed with these three ideas, the world has never committed itself to them with a firm resolve.
However, we need to ask ourselves - If we are to survive, if the world is to survive, if our son or daughter is to survive, what kind of person am I going to be? What am I going to do with each day I live? Do not waste time asking - What did I fail to do yesterday, or what did others fail to do yesterday. Instead, ask - What am I going to do today and with the rest of my life?
In the older comedy “City Slickers”, the trail boss tells the city slicker, Billy Crystal, he knows the one secret of life. Billy Crystal asks, “What is it?” The trail boss (Jack Valance) responds, “One thing. And, that is what you have to decide.”
Well, today, we have to decide. If we are going to survive, God has shown us what to do. Three things: Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.
What do these mean?
First, act justly. To act justly means you treat all people the same no matter who or how different they may be. It means you seek the truth, and ask question even of those in authority. Blind obedience does not coincide with a democracy or discipleship. That means you will have to develop courage.
One book I hope you will read is the late President John F. Kennedy’s book entitled “Profiles in Courage.” It tells of people – people who were in Congress - who had the courage to speak out and vote against an injustice, or because they followed their conscience to right a wrong. Most of them paid a heavy cost for their acts of courage. I would like to send a copy of that book to every one of our elected representatives.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “There comes a time when you must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but you take it because your conscience tells you it is right.”
In the book 1984, George Orwell describes a world where a government controls people through pain and hate. Today, I worry more about people controlled by their silence or by distractions. Instead of seeking after truth and justice, we become Citizen Bystander, a person who watches events without being involved or committed to them. We become slaves to entertainment.
The purpose of the church – in Scripture, sermon, sacrament, and song – is transmit truth about who we are and what we can become, to challenge us a disciples of Christ, and to create values for living. The church is for world commitment, not entertainment.
God give us life to be people of courage when right needs to be done.
Secondly, love mercy.
While justice can bring the powerful low, mercy brings the lowly to power. Mercy empowers the lowly by showing that they matter, that they all have value.
Mercy proclaims – empower those who cannot help themselves.
A person, and a nation, is judged by how they treat the poor, the oppressed, the abused, the victims, and the imprisoned.
In the Holocaust, six million Jews, and many millions of other undesirables, were forced out of their homes in towns and cities across Europe, while their fellow citizens watched. Then they were herded into boxcars or trucks, stripped of their belongings, their clothes, their glasses, their teeth, and their hair. Then they were shot, gassed, buried or incinerated. Their fellow citizens said – “We didn’t know.” How could you not know?
To be merciful, is to know – to make it your business to know what is happening to the undesirables in the land.
In recent weeks, women across the nation, are raising their voices against persons and institutions who have abused power to treat women with violent sexual degradation, with innuendos, and with slander. Such abuse should never have happened to women, to children, or to anyone. Our nation, our institutions, our people, should have not only known what was happening, but spoken up whenever such abuse or violence happens.
To be merciful means to stand up, to speak up. “Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (MLK)
Act justly, love mercy.
And thirdly, walk humbly..
Walk humbly with others. Do not measure yourself to others either proudly or poorly. Some people will do things better than you; and you will do better than other people. Do not judge yourself or others by your success or loss. They happen to all.
Walk humbly with others.
And walk humbly with God.
Atheism says, “There is no God.” Self-righteousness says, “We do not need God.” While one is non-religious, the other is religious in nature, and both lack humility.
To walk humbly means to keep in mind what Jesus committed us to do – to love God, to love others, and to love ourselves. You and I need to make a commitment. For once you make a commitment, life gives you answers.
Finally this, what kind of world do you want to live in? What kind of world do you want your children to live in? We are a world of nuclear giants, but ethical midgets.
It is up to you – the people – to stop it. The power is yours.
Each person who acts justly, who loves mercy, who acts humbly towards God and others, adds one more light to a darken world.
God has given you – each of you the power to make a difference. Your calling is clear – to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God and others.
If we are to survive, we have a choice. The world does not have to be as it is. God does promise you a rose garden. God gives you the seed, the soil, and the sun; now God says – “Go to it. Start digging.” Amen!
(Copyright 2018 by Jack Hughes Robinson. Use by Permission Only.)