Reactions to the deaths of unarmed Black men by non-Black law enforcement officers prompted the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Concerns about wealth distribution in the United States fostered the “Occupy” movement. Many voices, including politicians, pastors, educators, counselors, psychologists, and businesspersons have responded in various ways. Yet, amid the cacophony of voices in the public square, one question rings in my ears: What does Jesus have to say on the issue of social justice? What does Jesus say concerning our treatment and care for one another? Unsurprisingly, Jesus had much to say.
In Matthew 25:35 and 36, Jesus said:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then Jesus concluded,
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (verse 40).
We often quote the great commandment of Matthew 22:37-39 about loving God and loving our neighbor. We practice the Great Commission of Matthew 28 to teach and preach the everlasting gospel. Yet, do we adhere to the Great Requirement found in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV).
These three requirements—do justly, love mercy,and walk humbly with God—are behaviors that embody social justice, along with the fair, equitable treatment of all persons. Let us briefly examine these requirements. First, to “do justly” is to act with fairness, honesty, and integrity. There is an old saying that “honesty is the best policy.” But for a follower of Christ, honesty is the only policy. When we are “just” with others, we act with honesty and integrity. Hence, doing justice is “doing things right” and “doing the right things.”
Second, the Scripture calls us to “love mercy,” which is not to be mistaken with having mercy. There is a difference between loving mercy and having mercy. Put simply, we are not to perform acts of kindness merely from a sense of compliance, conformity, or compulsion, but rather our expression of mercy should be motivated by love.
Finally, we are required to walk humbly with God. Ironically, when the text speaks of what God requires, the first two requirements primarily deal with how we relate and act towards one another. Yet, this third requirement outlines God’s expectation for us to have a right relationship with Him, and this relationship should always begin with humility. Additionally, whenever you walk with someone, three things must be true:
- you must go in the same direction,
- walk at the same pace, not getting ahead or falling behind, and
- you must be going to the same destination. These characteristics should epitomize our walk with God.
What does the Lord require of us? How do we answer the social justice question? What should be our treatment of others? We must do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. This is the “Great Requirement” that, when practiced, will steer us to our heavenly destination.