He has shown you 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.
A popular movie theme is where one of the major characters loses his or her memory. They do not recall who they are or anything about their past, and this creates many opportunities for conflict for the screenplay writers. I googled ‘memory loss movies’, and over 25 came up. The Bourne series of movies and Total Recall have this theme. So does The Vow, Apart, 50 First Dates, The Notebook, The Long Goodnight Kiss, The Forgotten, Overboard, Unknown, and the list could go on.
We can watch these movies and imagine what it must be like to not remember any of our loved ones, what we do, who we are, or our important relationships. We can imagine what it must feel like as our memory gradually returns: we again know who we are, what we do, what we like, what is important to us, and who the important people are in our lives.
I have no direct experience of this; I can only imagine. But sadly, what I have experienced and continue to occasionally experience spiritual amnesia - not remembering my identity in Christ, my relationship with God, and the priorities of my life as a spiritual being. I forget at times that I am a Child of God. Perhaps you are like me, sometimes we need reminding about who we truly are.
I suspect it will happen to most of us; we are going to be like Jason Bourne: something happens to us in life and we can’t remember who we are and find that we are good at tying knots. People around us think we are a sailor because of how we are behaving.
We sometimes look at what we do and conclude that our actions define who we are. After all, we have been told that we are what we do. But I don’t think it is quite that simple. In our Bible verse, what is required of us is more than changing our actions alone. It actually requires that we remember who we are.
So we are given three simple things to jog our memories when we become forgetful: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
At the time this Bible verse was written Israel had some challenges. They were bogged down in religious ritual and people were treated unfairly. The leaders of the Temples thought themselves superior to others; they were proud and arrogant.
No matter how much ritual – action – they engaged in, they had separated themselves from God; they had forgotten God. God was trying to tell them, and tell us, that religious ritual does not in and of itself build a close spiritual relationship with God.
Yet, as we act justly, doing the right things to the best of our abilities, a flash of memory leaps into our heart and we begin to change. It is the change of heart that bonds us to the Divine. That is where our spiritual memory begins … in the heart.
When we open our heart to the flow of God’s love, we begin to feel differently … we feel loving! As we feel differently, we also think and act differently. We start to wake up to who we truly are and we want to treat people differently – with respect, appreciation, acceptance, and compassion. We treat others fairly and we do what is right. We can do what is right because through the power of God’s love we know what the right thing to do is.
Unless we are filled with God’s love, righteousness -- doing what is right, thinking what is right -- eludes us. This is because we attract what we are thinking and feeling. If we are devoid of love we simply cannot create within us the proper conditions to attract justice or other spiritual qualities.
It is through God’s love that we become just and fair, to ourselves and to others. In Micah’s day people were treating others unfairly. Through Micah Chapter 6 versus 9-12, God points out this behavior: “Will there be no end of your getting rich by cheating? The homes of the wicked are filled with treasures gained by dishonestly measuring out grain in short measures. And how can I tolerate all your merchants who use dishonest scales and weights? The rich among you have become wealthy through extortion and violence. Your citizens are so used to lying that their tongues can no longer tell the truth.”
When we allow God’s love to move through us we are renewed and we begin to remember who we are. We remember that we are a child of God, made in God’s image and reflect the qualities of God, so it becomes intolerable for us to treat others wrongly.
In Jeremiah 31:3 God tells us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” We begin to reflect the love that draws us to God, and we love everyone and everything, including ourselves.
We begin to love who we are and how we are acting. We love the wonderful qualities that we see within our selves, and even love the weaknesses and faults – our humanness. We begin to love the way we treat others, we love our relationships, and how we relate to our environment. Ultimately, we begin to love the mercy that we show others.
The Bible uses the Hebrew word hesed to describe mercy. It means “loyal love” or “loving kindness in action.” It is a compassionate warm-heartedness toward others, not only treating them fairly, but to show mercy and forgiveness when we are mistreated. Mercy conveys the idea of love and kindness that is unexpected and unwarranted. It is performing acts of kindness out of love.
So, we are instructed to not simply show mercy, or have mercy, but to love mercy. We are expected to love the act of loving…and this happens when we open our hearts to Spirit.
The third part of remembering who we are is to walk humbly with God. As God’s love flows through us, its power softens our heart, sharpens our vision, illuminates our way, and we step more assuredly along life’s meandering and treacherous paths.
As we fill with God’s love, we understand that it is not us, our own lone self that is accomplishing anything. As Jesus so clearly states in John 14:10 “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.” That is humility; acknowledging that it is not ‘me’ who is doing any good deeds, it is God expressing through me, as me; God is doing the works.
Another aspect of humility is through the action of receiving. From what I have observed, the most humble spirits accept a gift with a sincere and simple “Thank you.” They are gracious in receiving; their hearts are open to the gifts and abundance that God offers.
And all of God’s good is being offered to us: good plans, good people, good events … all of our good, God’s good, is available to us. It is a sad ignorant act of arrogance that we close our hearts and minds to this good in our lives. We tell ourselves that we are unworthy. We tell ourselves that we are undeserving of the good that flows to us. We allow our pride, our ego, our small self-centered thoughts to interfere, and dictate what we receive.
God’s good is always offered to us. God’s love and forgiveness is always available, but we must raise our consciousness to receive it. By becoming aware our true nature and our relationship with the Divine, we remember that we are a deserving, worthy, and precious child of God.
Micah’s message is still pertinent. Religious rites, no matter how extravagant, can never compensate for a lack of love. 1 Corinthians 13:3 teaches: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Outer compliance to religious rules, observations, and requirements are not as effective in building a relationship with God as a humble heart that simply does what is right.
My prayer is that our hearts be unlocked, that our minds be opened to Christ’s guidance, and that our spiritual amnesia is healed, and we again remember who we are. As we are told in Romans 8:38-39: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can't be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.
It is my prayer that as these memories return, we again know what is of value, what principles, relationships, and priorities are important. It is my prayer that through the power of God’s love we remember whose we are, and as a Child of God I pray that we continue to act rightly, love mercy, and walk in humility with God.
Let us pray….