Batting 666

He has shown you, O man, 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)

That’s the $100,000 question, isn’t it? Just what the heck does God want from me anyway? I mean, you’ve got a gazillion commandments in the Old Testament covering murder to cooking to popping zits. It’s like trying to swat mosquitos in North Dakota: you may nail one here and there, but there are a couple thousand more determined to suck your bloodstream dry. So you’re kind of relieved when God narrows down the requirements into a manageable handful. Basically it comes down to three (surprise surprise) easily remembered principles.

The first one is pretty much a no-brainer. God wants you to give people what they deserve. This is called justice. If somebody does something cool, they deserve to get something cool out of the deal. If somebody does something stupid, they’re supposed to suffer the consequences of their stupidity. This isn’t all that hard to figure out. Say you come across a brand new sports car parked diagonally across two spaces so the guy won’t get his fancy car doors dinged. Justice demands action, so it would be totally righteous to accidently scrape your keys across the side of his expensive car. You would have not only satisfied the requirements for justice in this situation, you would also gain a deep sense of satisfaction. By acting justly, you have pacified your frustration and anger and taught the idiot a lesson he won’t forget for a long time. Doing justice can be a really enjoyable thing and there are tons of idiots out there to practice it on. As Jesus told Peter: “I give you the keys of the kingdom. Go for it.”

Unfortunately, the second principle cancels out the first one—and, I must add, is a whole lot less fun. The mercy thing is just plain harder to pull off, mostly because in order for mercy to be mercy there has to be a thing that really ought to have a ton of justice slammed down on it, but instead of slamming it down like you should, like you have a right to, like you really really really really REALLY want to—instead, you go against every bloody instinct in your whole being and don’t give the jerk exactly what he deserves. Instead, you give the idiot exactly what he does NOT deserve, which is getting off the freaking hook. GAAAHHH! This makes my keys of justice shudder in my pocket. Mercy is exactly what you don’t want for those jerks—except when you just happen to be the jerk who needs it. Then I’m all for it. And considering how good I’m at the justice thing, it only seems reasonable that I should cop a benefit or two in the mercy department, if only to balance things out on the cosmic scale. I, for one, deserve mercy.

Finally there’s the humility thing. Humility means not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to. This is not a problem for most people since they don’t have many reasons to think highly of themselves in the first place. And when I meet somebody who has a higher opinion of themselves than they should, mercy demands that I point that out to them. After all, I don’t want them to get their ego kicked at the Great White Throne. By taking them down a few notches I’m saving them from some major embarrassment later on. As for my own situation, if the flip side to humility is thinking of yourself as highly as you ought to, then I am definitely one of the better practitioners of humility. My self-admiration is wholly commensurate with my admirable qualities. Thus, my higher opinion of myself is in accord with the truth and what I truly deserve. In this way I can practice both humility and justice at the same time. I realize that this is not possible for most people, but I just thought I would mention it.

Now that I think of it, I guess I’m doing pretty well in two of the three areas that God requires. I admit that I’m a little shaky in the mercy department, but that’s mostly because nobody actually deserves it. I’m guessing that God will overlook this minor shortcoming. After all, two out of three ain’t bad.

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