- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. J. Marshall Dunn at University Christian Church in Hyattsville, Md.

The prophet Micah said in his day, "The Lord has a controversy with His people" [Micah 6:1-8]. The question for Israel had been: What is it, after all, that pleases God? Burnt offerings? A calf or two? Or how about thousands of rams? Maybe 10,000 rivers of oil? That sure ought to get God's attention. Or, what if we give God our first-born child?

Micah answers: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God."

In the business world, after a complex discussion on deals and ramifications, somebody will ask, "What is the bottom line?" Which is, "How much does it cost? What is required of us?" And so it is with our pleasing God. When all the prophets have been heard, the Scriptures read, and Jesus' teachings known, what is the bottom line to be a Christian?

Micah says three things. First of all, do justice. We are all for justice, but are we actively pursuing it? I have never said, "God has revealed to me how you should vote," but God has spoken to all of us on the central attributes for a leader. That person will pursue justice for all people. For poor people and rich people. For black, white and brown people. Does a candidate truly want to pursue justice? …

Still, a quarter of our children live in poverty. Forty million Americans do not have health insurance. And that feels like a sin. Those people, however, are less likely to vote than the middle class or senior citizens, who get the lion's share of campaign promises.

But can we criticize politicians for lacking a passion for justice for "the least among us" when they don't hear it from our churches, synagogues and mosques? The words of Micah indict most of us. His contemporary Isaiah says, "Seek justice. Correct oppression." Paul says, "Love does not rejoice in wrong, but always rejoices in the right. The Lord requires first that we do justice."

The second requirement is also relational, to "love kindness." Do we tactfully seek the good of others, or manipulate them to do what we want, to accept our point of view, or to get out of our way? For our children, when someone at school is different and made fun of, are you kind to that person, or join in? And adults, how far do you go to help that neighbor down the street or that co-worker who is so hard to live with? How do you bear Christ's name by loving the less lovable? The Bible assures us that when we do practice loving kindness, we are pleasing God.

Our third requirement is to "walk humbly with our God." Here we come to the bottom line of being in relationship to God. Some people feel God is so vast and powerful that He would never lower Himself to be concerned with just an individual. God is a cosmic force or "ultimate reality." Theirs is a distant God who does not listen and does not help.

On the other side of the continuum we find folks whose God is downright chummy. He is "the man upstairs," my buddy, my partner, my co-pilot. He gives me everything I want. And I know Him so well. In fact, He looks somewhat like me and my prejudices, just nicer and more powerful. Somewhere in between these two extremes, we are asked to relate in humility to the real God.

Walking humbly is an attitude on our part. It recognizes that God loves and cares for me personally, but does not assume God and I are "like this." This humility knows that the God of love is also mystery, and we don't know all about Him. We sometimes feel very close, and other times distant. Walking humbly means that we constantly seek God's will without claiming that we have ever fully understood it. But it is "walking with," and that means an intimacy with our Creator and Redeemer. An old hymn says it well. "When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, I pour contempt on all my pride."

Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.

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