Peacock at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Walk humbly

When life gets complicated, sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics. I don’t know why the basics are often the first thing we forget, but when life turns upside-down or get so packed full of responsibility, there’s something in me that wants to twist off and just make things up as I go. And I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that, but when you don’t know what to do or how to act or what choice is wise, the best place to go is back to the beginning. It’s not that we need to make up a new answer. Most of the time, the answer’s already in front of us; we just have to look for it.

Peacock at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Peacock at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

This month I’m focusing on the basics, on what God expects from us, on how to make simple choices in a complicated life. What matters. And this post is part of a three-part series on this one verse, but walking humbly is something I struggle with. Granted I struggle with loving mercy too, but walking humbly is a whole different set of issues.

What does it mean to walk humbly anyway?

Well, all throughout the Bible when it talks about walking it’s usually just talking about living. Our lives are often pictured as a journey or a path on a road, and walking really is used to describe how we live. So what this really is saying is that we need live humbly. And that’s where the sticky part comes in.

What is humility?

Some people get it in their heads that humility is selling everything they own and living in poverty. Some people think that humility is considering yourself so low that you punish yourself or never say anything good about yourself. But are either of those really correct? I mean, yes, humility is a lack of pride. And living in humble circumstances usually means you don’t own much. And nobody’s perfect, so we shouldn’t take pride in being good people. But I don’t think that’s the kind of humility this verse is talking about.

Humility is more than just giving away your possessions or choosing to live in poverty or our self-image. Like faith, humility is a lifestyle. It’s not just one choice you make; it’s a series of choices flowing from the attitude of your heart. And that heart attitude comes from understanding who God is and how He sees you.

The Bible is full of all sorts of verses about how we shouldn’t think we’re better than other people. There are all sorts of verses about how we’re supposed to think about ourselves and our “good works.” And we’re never ever supposed to think that anything we’ve ever done makes us worthy of a relationship with God. But the opposite side of that coin is that God wants a relationship with us anyway. Maybe our best efforts are filthy rags in comparison to His righteousness, but that doesn’t change who He is and how He sees us. We are precious to Him, and that needs to affect how we see ourselves.

It’s not pride to realize how much God loves you. It’s not pride to accept His love and embrace a one-on-one relationship with Him. It’s not pride to be grateful for the possessions He’s given to you, as long as you don’t refuse to share them when He asks.

Pride is telling God He doesn’t know what He’s doing. And maybe none of us would vocalize that, but I can tell you I live like that. I worry. I try to control things. I try to take back the things I’ve given Him because I don’t trust Him enough to take care of them. I ignore what He tells me to do in favor of what I want to do or what makes me feel better. That’s pride.

Pride is trying to be the boss of your own life.

Humility is accepting that God knows better than you do, not just on one topic but on every topic. Humility is turning loose of everything in your life and letting God take care of it. Humility is recognizing who God is–the Creator of everything, the Master of everyone–and choosing to back off. He’s already Lord, and it’s our job to stop fighting Him.

That’s what He requires. That’s what matters. Do right. Love mercy. Live humbly.

But walking humbly doesn’t mean you keep your head bowed and eyes down. Stand tall. Be confident. Following Christ doesn’t mean you have to bow in defeat. Get that head raised up in victory and press forward. That’s not pride; that’s confidence. Get to know God and how He sees you, and you’ll understand.

So today, when all the worries and troubles and conflicts scatter across your path and block your way, don’t stop walking and try to move them yourself. If you try to stop and move them, you’re going to get stuck, and you won’t be able to move them anyway because they’re too heavy for you. Just keep walking and trust that God will take care of it before you reach them. And if it appears that He doesn’t move an obstacle, maybe it’s not an obstacle after all and it’s just a stepping stone.

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

What God requires

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.

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

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?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
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.