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What's Up With Micah 6:8?
Everyone Took Note Of Him
The old man moved slowly along the sidewalk. He was stooped over and leaning on a battered cane. Strings of scarecrow-like hair poked out from under a battered ballcap that he wore at an odd angle.
The cap seemed to be a prized possession because he kept clutching at it each time the autumn breeze tried to snatch it away. His face was pinched into a permanent grimace. Each step took great effort, as though his joints were in dire need of lubrication, but there was something in his pain-racked shuffle that summoned attention.
In the cluster of office-workers scurrying to and from lunchtime appointments, he stood out. No one actually stopped to speak to him or even paused to give him a smile, but everyone took note of him.
The brisk breeze swirling eddies of dust along the avenue suddenly gusted, catching the peak of the old man’s ballcap. It took off like a kite. His mouth wrenched open as his free hand clawed up to grab it, but his arthritic bones could not move fast enough. In his frantic and jerky effort, he almost lost his footing, but then latched onto the cane with both hands to steady his balance.
While he watched the wind do its thing, his eyes echoed a sorrow that emanated from deep inside a canyon of memory. The cap rode a strong current for twenty feet or so, and then came tumbling down in the street to join an assortment of discarded fast-food wrappers and other bits of garbage being swept along the edge of the curb. He went after it in his hunched over stutter-stepping kind of way, but it distanced itself from him in rapidly increasing increments.
A forlorn cry escaped his throat as he tried to hurry. In his haste he began bumping into people, muttering apologies as he stayed focused on the direction the wind was taking his treasure. People continued to notice him, but it was as though his distress was invisible. Despite the old man’s thrashing progress through the crowd, everyone managed to keep pace with his or her deadlines and schedules.
After several blocks of frenzied pursuit, his chest was heaving and beginning to hurt. Little threads of pain were tightening into a thick, hard knot just behind his breastbone. His breath was coming in short gasps; his hair was matted with sweat. He teetered to a faltering stop. He realized there was no chance of recapturing the ballcap.
A rasping wheeze of a groan choked out of him as his body sagged in defeat. His shoulders sank even lower than before. Tears glistened on his weathered cheeks as he looked into the faces of passing strangers, silently pleading and motioning for help. It was sadness personified.
Alone In A Crowd
I’d like to tell you that several people responded to his need, rushing forward to comfort him, rallying around him in care and concern. I’d like to tell you that someone rescued the ballcap and was even now returning it to him along with a word of encouragement and an offer of friendship. I’d like to tell you that everything worked out fine and the story had a happy ending. I’d like to tell you all of that and more, but I cannot because none of it happened.
No one came to his assistance; not a single, solitary person reached out with compassion or kindness. Even though surrounded by many, many eyewitnesses he was utterly alone in his predicament. Whatever affection or remembrance he had attached to that ragged ballcap became a deep sense of loss that the old man would be left to grieve over all by himself.
A Sparse Commodity
Were there any Christians on the sidewalk that watched the drama unfold without being moved to action? Were they all too busy, too self-absorbed and too preoccupied? Had they perfected the art of pretending not to see?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, that is tragic. After all, according to Peter in Acts 10:38, Jesus of Nazareth “went around doing good”, which would certainly mean that those who proclaim Christ as Savior and Lord must be about the business of being good deed doers.
Too often kindness is a sparse commodity in our communities and neighborhoods, but for those who follow Christ, routine kindness should be automatic. I wonder why that is not always the case?
Revisiting Micah 6:8
Church is people; living and breathing redeemed individuals. In its quest for holiness, has the church lost sight of the fundamental basics of kindness? Have we become so enthralled by our programs or so consumed by worship wars that we’ve forgotten the profound urgency of kindness? In our desire to be culturally relevant have we forgotten the simple power of kindness?
Indeed, kindness is profoundly simple and simply profound. Scripture compels us to be actively involved in ongoing adventures of kindness.
In the RSV Micah 6:8 reads: “He has showed 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?”
Like many passages of Scripture, we humans have an enormous capacity to complicate the commonsense meaning of words, but kindness is not some linguistic riddle for us to solve. Neither is it a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be pieced together to determine the intent of the verse.
This one is about as straightforward as it gets. It is not an option for believers to apply or disregard. Number two on the top three list of what God requires of his people is for us to love kindness.
In this context, a fair rendering of the concept of mercy or kindness is for us to be vigilant in following through on our commitment to be nice people who care for others. Jesus modeled this verse. He met people at their exact point of need and ministered to them. We are to do likewise.
Micah 6:8 reminds us that believers are to lead by example as first-responders to the ordinary pain of the human condition.
After all, we understand that our world is imprisoned by sin and all its bitter consequences. The effects of sin are completely without mercy or remorse, fashioning a variety of bleak prisons that are much more oppressive and punishing than mere concrete walls and steel bars.
If you doubt that or dislike the metaphor, consider those living with Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer or any other debilitating disease; examine the grinding cycles of poverty, hunger, shame or homelessness which can spawn the desperation of drug addiction and substance abuse; think of refugees from ethnic cleansing battles or those trapped in places where terrorism and violence are a way of life; look at the commonplace experience of family break-ups which occur with such frequency as to be accepted as the norm; recognize the universal wasting away of the aging process.
These are thumbnail snapshots of the types of prisons that permeate our world; prisons that must be infiltrated by kindness because they are part and parcel of what it means to be human.
Desperate For Hope
The old man may be alone in his predicament but he is not alone in his loneliness; ultimately the heartache of loneliness is the prison that at one time or another seizes all of us. Seekers, skeptics and believers all yearn for kinship and rapport with others, but increasingly we live in a state of disconnection. Many people fill their lives with noise and busyness in efforts to feed the hunger of loneliness that eats away at their soul.
The examples are endless, which means that the possibilities for ministry are endless. Like the joke about the person who couldn’t see the forest because of the trees, we regularly pray to be used as a vessel of God’s grace, but then race past answers to our prayer because we’re searching for the spectacular opening that we just know God is going to provide.
We have eyes but there are plenty of times when we do not see. I am convinced that on a daily basis each of us misses opportunities to interact with hurting people; opportunities that are as obvious as befriending an old man by retrieving his windblown ballcap.
I am also convinced that by delivering kindness in all different situations and circumstances we generate hope in others; if our sin-imprisoned world is desperate for anything, it is desperate for hope.
Hope Is A Good Thing
The Shawshank Redemption is a gritty and violent portrayal set in a corrupt penal institution. The movie’s graphic depiction of life in the shadows is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended.
In it a character named Andy Dufresne overcomes the horrors and atrocities of the penitentiary because he has an inner peace and confidence rooted in hope. In his words: “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” He understood that hope is a necessity of life; he knew that to live without hope was to be shackled to despair.
Andy Dufresne had gotten hold of some truth there. And here’s the rest of the truth that Andy Dufresne didn’t quite grasp: Believers possess the greatest hope of all; the hope of glory.
As Paul told his friends at Colosse, the hope of glory is Christ dwelling within us. A mystery to be sure, yet we live out that hope of glory when we share it with others by intentional acts of kindness.
What’s up with Micah 6:8 is this: Kindness is the conduit by which we administer hope in the midst of the suffering which sin spreads throughout the world. We are to be people who demonstrate our love of kindness by freely giving it away; we are to be faithful givers of kindness.
“He has showed 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?”
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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