Monday, March 7, 2016

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Micah (1)



The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
The Great Triad - Micah
          It’s hard to start anywhere else in Micah than 6:8 because it is familiar to many and captures the heart of Israel’s faith in a memorable fashion:

“(God) 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?”

          I want to explore this passage today by three P’s I often use to describe Christian existence.

          -priorities: our deepest convictions about God, life, and how we should live
          -passions: the drives and energies to move us to act
          -practices: what we do

          Imagine these three P’s as three parts of our “hearts,” which in biblical parlance means more than the seat of or emotions. Rather, the heart is much more like the control center at NASA directs every aspect of a launch. Mind (priorities), will (practices), and emotions (passions) are the major elements of this human “control center.” As long as these three elements work together in concert and harmony our control center is able to launch us into consistent and coherent lives. Our priorities, passions, and practices mutually reinforce each other and promote the development of habits which grow into a character that bears witness to what we believe.

          Often, however, one or all of these three P’s work at cross purposes with the others. We do not know or want to live in accord with our fundamental convictions, we experience drives and energies that tempt us to move away from or fail to act in accordance with them, or find ourselves doing things that give the lie to them. It’s like three people walking arm-in-arm down the street. As long as they have the same destination in mind, move at the same pace and in the same direction they move toward their goal. Let one or more of them, though, change their destination, or pace, or direction, and soon enough they are no longer moving together but each are moving off in a different direction.

          We all know this struggle, I suspect. We have experienced the tension the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 7:15-20:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Sin is the name for that irrational inexplicable tendency we have to live in the push and pull of disordered thoughts, drives, and actions. We have seen the pervasiveness and perverseness of such disordered priorities, passions, and practices in the books of the Twelve we have looked at thus far. Thus Micah adds his voice to the prophetic critique of such chaotic disorder in Judah using a paradigm similar to my three P’s in the key passage in 6:8:

- to do justice (practices),
-to love kindness (passions), and
-to walk humbly with your God (priorities).

Israel, according to Micah, can have its chaotic life re-ordered if it returns to its God and allows him to do the work necessary in them to enable consistent and coherent living as his people.

-if we know we are but creatures incapable of directing our lives on our own and act on that conviction by humbly submitting ourselves to the will and way of our Creator and Redeemer, then
-we will find our passions and drives reflecting those of our God – a kindness which drives us to seek in all situations the best for others well-being in all situations, and
-our actions will be those of justice, actively working toward establishing right relations with others in every area of life.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate and perfect fulfillment of this prophetic exhortation of Micah’s. Through him and in him each of us will find the grace which alone can re-order our disordered lives. We can’t do it ourselves, but we can open ourselves to the one who can, the one who did live humbly with his God, loved kindness, and did justice and has reclaimed us as God’s own and empowers us to live coherent lives of witness to his grace through his Spirit.

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