What is Good

I normally walk to her door to let her know I’m there to take her to new places in our city. I parked the car, doing the regular things to exit, when my car keys were stuck. I restarted the car, hoping that a quick reset would help me get the keys out. That didn’t work, so I pumped the break, turned the wheel, everything I could possibly think of to just get the keys to finally release, which of course, only started the car alarm. The horn loudly continued on, as I frantically tried to restart it again and turn off the loud noises right near her front door. I scrounged for my phone, calling my husband for any car help, and saw that the honking summoned my friend outside and she most certainly looked confused, only for me to quickly look down and see that my car was half parked and half not, stuck in-between letters on the gear shift. She opened the car door, as I began apologizing and attempting to explain my absentmindedness with the language barrier blocking any attempt to make what had just happen plain.

She clutched in her hands her recent project in her english class, “A Book About Me.” We had met only a handful of times before, working hard to get to know one another, and this was her chance to share with me parts of herself, her life. I recognized some of her favorite foods and clothes, and slowly but surely the walls that separate us in our differences began to dissipate brick by brick, the act of simply knowing one another a gift.

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?
— Micah 6:6-8

Micah spoke on behalf of God to his own brothers and sisters with words that brought them to stand before the ultimate Judge, as their own judges failed to be what they were called to be. It starts simply in verse 6, as Leslie Allen says that, “the people are offended by the divine attack, which in their eyes is unwarranted,” as they give the best of the best to Yahweh. Isn’t this good? Yet, even within this passage, the god Molech of the Ammonites had its very own sacrificial site right in the holy city of Jerusalem. Firstborn for your transgression, fruit of your body for the sin of your soul, the spun poetic prose of our prophet lifted the scales off of eyes who had quickly become pagan, child sacrifice the way to worship Molech.

He makes it plain, once again, a call back to remember what the covenant asked them to be, to embody: do justice, love hesed, walk humbly with your God. The covenant was God’s gift, grace to His people, to make them into His own. Even in the call to simply be who He had called them to be, the beauty of what that looked like in each of their lives is that it could look differently and simultaneously still be loving God and loving neighbor.

We seem to be worlds away from our Ancient Near Eastern context, and yet, crossing the divide of what separates us is a short bridge. As we have walked through a lot of this context already, even journeying through over half the book, we look not too many streets outside of our door to see that we make many excuses to refuse human dignity to those who are not like us, saying we do already do so much or don’t have enough time or resources, storing up all that is here all for ourselves.

One way that it has looked like to do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with my God for myself is to obey one of the commands in Scripture to see the plight of the foreigner in your midst. The word hospitality in greek literally means love of the stranger. Interesting that if we took hospitality at the core of its meaning seriously, the implications for what it looks like to love your neighbor can be both simple and also subversive, breaking bread also breaking ground. There’s been quite a bit of discussion around our new neighbors, and most of it hasn’t been positive, especially coming from those who identify as evangelical.

But in the debates that continue to rage in Western countries, Christians should resist the Darwinian idea that the flourishing of immigrants is an obstacle to our own flourishing. We should resist the temptation to diminish the dignity of immigrants. And we should not seek to protect our own living standards at the expense of their lives.
— Daniel Darling, The Dignity Revolution
It is deadly to ignore biblical teaching about serving the stranger—deadly to the people who desperately need help and deadly to anyone who claims Christ as King. Membership in the kingdom of God is intimately linked to the practice of hospitality in this life. Hospitality is the ground zero of the Christian life, biblically speaking. A more crucial question for the Bible-believing Christian is this: Is it safe to fail to get involved?
— Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key

I don’t need a pat on the back for taking an hour out of my time every week, I get the privilege to live in the life abundant God meant for me simply by following His commands to love God and love others. I get to participate in the wild counter-cultural action of becoming friends with someone who doesn’t look and think like me. I get to see another picture of the image of God; I get more of Christ, and I am needy, hungry for more of Him.

This week, she remembered some of the foods I pointed at in her book. Instead of going out, she invited me in, carefully preparing a meal for us to all share together. We laughed as the spice levels were overwhelming for my tongue, and we sat through long periods of silence thinking through anything to say to each other with both awkwardness and gratitude, the opportunities to grow in more patience, more grace, more joy, bountiful.

We over here in Grand Rapids LOVE our friends at Treetops Collective. They are running a campaign to raise $100K in 100 Days, and if you feel a little tug (hopefully not full of guilt, but compelled to action), go here to donate to their amazing mission.

I have posted this before, but on one of my arguments for what I gain instead of what is normally heard like, “what a great sacrifice I’ve made,” is found here from Dr. Tim Gombis from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.