05 May The Face of True Religion
AUTHOR: David Z. Nowell
Reading Micah 6 this week. Really glad he is a minor prophet. I don’t think we would have been friends.
. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
I like the formalities of my religion, the stained glass, the order of service, the readings, the hymns. Especially the hymns. First growing up in the church of the south, and then living within her embrace as an adult, I find meaning in the rituals of southern churchhood, both deep and sometimes mundane. From Wednesday-night potluck dinners, to vacation bible school (for children and adults!), to Holy Week services. I like it all.
I like the rules.
Heck, I even like doctrine.
But ritual and tradition can be a barrier to true religion, and doctrine can be vanity.
I sometimes wonder if Micah would not have looked at us and said the same words he did a millennia ago.
We are surrounded by a world crying out for justice and kindness, but we can’t get our arms around this humility thing. What’s Micah’s point here? What does walking humbly have to do with justice and kindness? Perhaps just this: in the arrogance of our religion, we have determined that what God expects from us takes place within the four church walls and in front of the stained glass. It does not come with uncomfortable late-night knocks on the door, or hungry kids, or 153 million orphans.
Here’s a thought: maybe God gets to decide what true religion looks like—and when we embrace His decision, then we are walking humbly.
. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness . . .
Perhaps we have a grace problem today, and perhaps the Church has for a long time. Encountering God in grace can be dangerous because it gives Him an entry point in our lives. And stained glass, doctrine and ritual can sometimes be the way we control God, the way we define the parameters of our relationship.
Religion on our terms. The very opposite of walking humbly.
But when we truly experience God, when we encounter His grace, it cannot help but overwhelm us. And being overwhelmed—humbled—by grace is where this justice and kindness thing starts.
The Psalmist said it this way, he anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows.