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A few years ago—because I did not remotely understand the sort of world we were entering—I started a file called The Collected Idiocies of Facebook and Twitter. For a month or so, whenever I came across a gem, I clipped the post and left behind the name, to protect the well-intentioned. It was, as you can imagine, immediately de trop. There were too many posts to choose from.

This was one of my favorites (and a good representation):

The exhausting part of being a passionate enneagram 8 woman in a complementarian church? Your strengths are turned against you and used as negative labels. Healthy confidence=pride. A drive for justice=plowing ahead. Decisiveness=not a team player. Zest/energy=”too much.”

That’s from one flavor on the ideological rainbow. Here’s one from another end, just as bad:

Dealing with false teaching is necessary but it’s also draining. On the other hand, I love prepping for verse by verse studies. That’s a pleasure. If you spend a lot of time dealing with false teaching don’t feel bad for taking some time away from that for edifying pursuits.

This is my all-time favorite. It’s like Adrian Plass began to write Twitter posts:

I woke up early to read and pray. I didn’t “have to”, my soul is naturally drawn; I wake up to the sound of a conversation with God in my head. My team and I taught all day yesterday. We were whooped…I’m headed out in a bit to a men’s breakfast at church to sit at the feet of a foreign missionary and hear about the Bride overseas…Tomorrow, I’m preaching two services. Today is a play day with friends while on “working vacation” with my family. But that doesn’t matter. God has me. Heard, mind, and soul. This is His doing.

All of these bright, lovely Tweets of personal goodness are variations on that most beloved, most taken-out-of-context verse that you probably know by heart just from tripping over it in so many blog posts:

He has told you, O man, 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?

Recite it in some sort of sing-song way, and you have American “Christianity” in a nutshell. Justice? That’s so easy. I am always on the side of justice. Check. Kindness? Kindness is literally everything. Double Check. Walk humbly with God? You can’t get anyone more humble than me. I’m like the most humble. Check. Check. Check.

What is so lovely about this way of posting is that it is always under the guise of helping others. I must tell you a little more about myself because it will help you walk humbly with your God, whatever that means. If you can see how kind I am, you’ll be inspired to be kind yourself. HashtagJesusIsInCharge. As the years have gone by, of course, the tone on Twitter in particular has taken on a sharper edge. “Kindness is Everything” today usually does not resemble what heretofore might have been implied in that word.

So anyway, because Micah 6:8 is actually in the lections for this morning, I thought it would be fun to glance at the whole 8 verses:

1 Hear what the Lord says:
Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
    and let the hills hear your voice.
Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord,
    and you enduring foundations of the earth,
for the Lord has an indictment against his people,
    and he will contend with Israel.

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    How have I wearied you? Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
    and redeemed you from the house of slavery,
and I sent before you Moses,
    Aaron, and Miriam.
O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised,
    and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, 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?

If you go back and look at the previous chapter, you will discover some fascinating details about the promised Messiah. He will come from Bethlehem. He will be a Shepherd to his flock. And he will “be their peace.” Why do they even need a Messiah? Because they have not kept God’s law. They have run after other gods. Chapter 5 ends with a nearer-term promise by God that he will judge Israel for her idolatry and will preserve for himself a remnant of faithful believers.

So, one might make two observations going into chapter six—two obvious facts that are reiterated throughout the scriptures. First, God hates idolatry and will get rid of it. Second, he himself will rescue his people from their sins. When the shepherds of Israel devour the flock, he will come and judge those shepherds. When the kings of Israel go to Egypt for horses, he will send Assyria to destroy the leaders of Israel.

So, I wonder, is there any corresponding circumstance in western Christian culture today? Are there any shepherds who are determined to lie about scripture any moment they can get? What about this account of one speaking at a conference to pastors:

It is a hard pill to swallow when a beloved pastor who has helped a lot of people on their way toward Jesus bears his teeth and encourages those he is influencing “to be more snake-like in the appropriate Jesus kind of way.” It brings me no satisfaction whatsoever to note, again, that Stanley has been on his way out of the church for a while. Bowing to the god of sexuality will not get you into the kingdom of heaven.

So anyway, hear what the Lord says. Go into the courtroom and hear him say his piece. All the mountains have assembled to hear God’s indictment against his people. The foundations of the earth have been called to witness the facts. And the very first question is—“How have I wearied you?” What has God done that has been so wretched that his thoughts and works have to be turned upside down and trampled on? Was it his salvation out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage? Was it when he overturned the curses of Balak so that Balaam could only rain down blessings? What was it?

And, all these epochs later. How has God wearied the church? Are his gifts of Word and Sacrament insufficient to carry us through the wilderness? Is he unloving? Has he not provided what we need to do the work he called us to do—to make disciples of all nations, spreading abroad his gospel to the ends of the earth?

It seems so. It seems that the scriptures and work are a great weariness to the western church. Like ancient Israel, it’s easier to offer various sacrifices that God has not asked for—like offering up children to Molech, or torrents of vacuous praise, the kind of sacrifices that make you look good but keep God at bay.

That’s how idolatry works. You do something visible and splendid, something that makes you look good to yourself and any other onlookers. But in so doing you commit yourself to some other god, some malign being (perhaps even yourself) who will drag your soul into hell. In our world, we have stripped away a lot of the fluff of actually making the little image, of setting up the pole. No, all we need is the wonders of technology by which to display an endless parade of “righteousness.” We go straight for the gusto—you are good, even some Christian “pastors” say. Your sexual desires make you especially holy.

Well, not really:

He has told you, O man, 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?

“Justice” here isn’t your social justice warrior efforts. “Kindness” isn’t the nebulous feelings associated with yourself that you project onto other people you sort of like. And to “walk humbly?” Well, there is no real way even to fathom what that might be except to wander over and hear what Jesus is saying to the gathered crowds:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What? Do you think he is talking about you? Maybe he is. But really, he is asking you to admit that when all of creation is arrayed as a cosmic courtroom and you are made to stand and give an account of yourself, the very first thing you should say is that you did not do what you knew you should have done. You did not love God. You did not love your neighbor as yourself. You did not do good. You could not make your righteousness shine forth like the noonday because you didn’t have any. You need help. You are therefore in the dust, mourning over your sin and your failures. You are hungry and thirsty and ready to admit it. You are begging God for help knowing he will come to deliver you. And when he delivers you, and others hate you for clinging to him at all cost, you won’t give up and decide that God has it wrong after all. That the gospel is “love God and love your neighbor” as if that isn’t the worst stone to tie around someone’s neck.

No, Micah 6:8 is not about you. It’s not the little instrument God puts in your hands to shame other people. It is the way that God displays his glory. It is the manner in which he chooses “what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

If you really want to know what to do, how to become the person described in Micah 6:8, you can try the Psalm instead:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

Can’t do that either? Of course you can’t. Only God can make it so. Ask him for help. Go to church. Confess your sins. And he will do all the rest.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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