I like to perform, not on stage but in life. If I don’t deliver a good performance that meets or exceeds expectations in anything that I do, I get depressed. I like to please people, and I like to go above and beyond what people expect of me. But to accomplish that, I have to know what they expect me to do to begin with.
I’ve tried to break myself of this whole performance-based acceptance concept because God doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t care about our performance in regards to how much He loves us, but He does have expectations for how His children should behave.
Today’s verses are Micah 6:6-8.
What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.So many times I think we try to bribe God with money or giving up things we view as essential or important. I have many friends who give up things for Lent, which I believe is a period of time before Easter. It’s a religious tradition in some families. One friend gave up pop for a year. Another friend gave up chocolate for a year. And so on and so forth. They do it to show devotion, that things like that mean less to them than God does.
But is that what God requires of us? What does God require from us? What does He want us to give up? What does He wants us to do for Him? What does He want us to sacrifice?
Well … here’s the thing. All of those requirements have been met through Christ. Christ was our sacrifice. Christ paid the price for our sins. Christ was the offering God required to symbolically cleanse us of our wrong and make us right with Him. So we aren’t required to give up anything. We aren’t required to sacrifice anything. We aren’t required to do anything, save making the choice to trust Christ in the first place.
People like to add things to God’s free gift so it makes us feel like we have some say in it. But God doesn’t need us to do anything more. He already did it all.
However, He does expect that we will behave in a certain way, and because God is a God of communication, He tells us exactly what those expectations are:
Do right. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.
Here’s how The Message puts it:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
Is that too much to ask?
It’s certainly not easy. In the world we’re living in, doing what is fair and just is difficult because those qualities mark a higher road. And the higher road is always harder.
And when it comes to loving others? Love is easier from a distance, but that’s not real love. The kind of love here is compassionate love and loyal love, and both of those require closeness. Another way to translate that says to love mercy and kindness, and that means to look for opportunities to show mercy to people. And that is even harder than taking the high road in doing right. You can take the high road and do the right thing without having to interact with people. But God expects us as His children to look for people to do good things for, even if they aren’t interested in doing good back to us.
And walking humbly? Not taking yourself too seriously? That’s difficult too, especially if you’ve already accomplished the other two. Because if you can always take the high road and always manage to do good to others, it’s easy to slip into the thought that you’re better than everybody else. But you’re not. You just take God seriously. That’s the key. You’re no different than anyone else; you just made a choice.
Another interesting thing to note is that each of these expectations starts with an action verb. Just a fun fact for all the grammar nerds out there. God expects us to move, to do these things, to be people of action, not people who absorb Bible verses and rest on their blessed assurance.
So get out there. Do right. Love mercy. And be humble about it. That’s what God expects from us.