He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Over 200 years ago Christians in England began the fight to abolish slavery. It was proposed and supported and by a small number of determined Christian’s. It was a complicated and unpopular battle because 80% of Great Britain's foreign income came from slave-grown products. Abolishing slavery would affect plantation owners, textile factories, and retail shops. Tax revenues would fall and many other industries would be impacted.
Against the odds slavery was abolished in the British Empire and, later, in the US. The abolition of slavery was an act of justice and mercy.
God calls his people to bring justice to a fallen world, tempered by mercy. This combination is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit for those who walk humbly with God.
We need to be just on a personal level. God requires that we do what is right and fair with other people. There is an old saying, “honesty is the best policy.” But for the Christian, that slogan should be, “honesty is the ONLY policy.”
We need to bring Godly justice to our world. God demands it (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalms 106:3; Proverbs 28:5; Isaiah 42:1)
History bears witness. From the abolition of slavery to the civil rights movement, Christians have been on the front lines of social justice. Christians have championed child labor laws, supported food distribution to the poor, prison reform, cleaned up slums.
The need is still great. There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today; half of them are children. Nearly 50,000 people are trafficked in the US each year. There are countries today where women and children are treated as the property of men in their family. They can be married off, beaten, disfigured and killed. There are countries where becoming a Christian is punishable by death. In America hunger, poverty and abortion are still major sources of suffering.
Food pantries and other relief ministries are not enough. We must work against the principalities and powers that are behind the suffering of so many human beings.
Our sense of justice must be tempered by mercy. Some people love justice instead of mercy. Jonah did not want to preach repentance to the Ninevites. The Pharisees preferred that people suffer rather than have Jesus heal on the Sabbath. Killing abortion providers is a merciless act.
Jesus gives us good examples of mercy trumping justice. Along with Sabbath healings, we have the stories of the prodigal son’s hearty welcome and the forgiveness offered the woman caught in adultery. The Bible gives us wiggle room in individual cases where mercy serves the kingdom better than justice. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Walking humbly with God helps us to keep the perspective required to do justice and love mercy. It helps us remember that our number one priority as a church is making disciples. It prompts us to tend to our own spiritual growth.