By Dick Barrett, conference minister
He has shown you, O mortal, 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 (NIV)
I have now been a part of the Mennonite Church for almost 25 years. Many things attracted me to the Mennonite Church: the emphasis on Scripture, discipleship which calls for following Jesus in every area of our lives, the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, the strong sense of community, pot-luck meals, the peace position (even though I was a police officer at the time), and the humility of the church leaders at every level, just to name some.
A lot has happened in our culture and in our church over that time. A focus on issues and agendas has caused us to become more and more polarized. I have a hard time watching any newscast anymore because they all seem to present it from one side or another. Whatever happened to neutral or unbiased reporting?
Sadly, I don’t see things being that different in the church. I turn to the reporting of news and the sharing of thoughts, ideas and initiatives, and I feel that same sense of polarization, even though I must confess I do like reading the editorial and opinion sections where I can experience commonality with those I agree with and quickly dismiss those I disagree with. Every one of us believes that we know what is right. What happened to our humility? Miriam-Webster.com defines the word “humble” as “not proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive; reflecting, expressing or offered in a spirit of deference or submission (i.e. a humble apology).”
Recently I found myself sensing the need to apologize to my 4-year-old granddaughter and to some fellow church leaders. I am not sure which experience was more humbling. Interestingly, I received the same response from the ones I wanted to apologize to: “You don’t have to be sorry; you don’t have to apologize.” I wondered what that says about our current culture. When was the last time you heard a sincere apology from one of our political leaders? When was the last time you heard a sincere apology from someone in church? When was the last time you were able to apologize to someone without any excuses or deflection of blame?
The most common Bible verse I hear quoted lately is Micah 6:8, especially from those who emphasize the peace and justice response to the Gospel, “to act justly.” What about the rest of the verse, “to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”? While God can say, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15), as God’s children who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have that choice. We are called to have mercy and compassion on all, including those with whom we disagree and even our enemies.
“Walking humbly with God” means that we need to accept and acknowledge that during our time here on earth, our knowledge on just about everything is limited. At the end of the Apostle Paul’s great chapter on love found in 1 Corinthians 13 — which we need to continually remind ourselves that he wrote primarily to all Christians and not just husbands and wives — he concludes with these words: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
Being the “quiet in the land” is not evidence of humility, just as being loud and boisterous is not undisputable evidence that one is not humble. True humility is acknowledging that we may be wrong on just about anything, that it is not our knowledge that saves us, but our faith in God who is the all-knowing, perfectly just, merciful and humble one who being God, made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:7-8)