If last week served no other purpose, it reminded me, once again, that there are two strongly prevailing and often at odds visions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in America in the 21st century. Whether it is the furor over the election of Donald Trump as President or the ongoing lack of real conversation between the perpendicular arguments of pro-life vs. pro-choice, the world has seen Christians arguing among themselves, at best, and outright denying the faith of the other, at worst over the course of the last month, well, maybe more like a year, or decade, or more.
It is in that climate that the liturgical calendar turns its page to the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, and the only words that anybody can remember from the prophet Micah. At the tail end of a long list of rhetorical questions about what actually pleases God, come these words, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Those who have hung around this blog for a while know that my favorite Greek word is adiaphora, which means “things indifferent.” It is a word that would be helpful for every Christian to make a part of their vocabulary. Most of what masquerades as deep theological debate these days is actually vitriolic arguments over adiaphora. That’s not to say that having a well informed theology is important. For example, if one were to take “thou shalt not kill” seriously, then it would behoove that one to take an holistic view of that commandment.
That being said, it does Christianity at large a huge disservice to publicly argue about matters indifferent with the sort of anger with which Christians have come to be known of late. I am particularly grateful, then, for the words of the prophet Micah as a baseline for what it is we are to be about. God has already told us what really matters in the heart of God: doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly. The current state of religious debate fails at the latter two points, and it is usually in the context of debate over the former. There are gray areas in what justice looks like, I am fully willing to admit that, but until those conversations happen in the context of loving kindness and humility, we as Christians will be unable to move forward toward effectively working toward the goal of building the Kingdom.
In Rotary Clubs, there is the Four-Way Test for every decision:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Perhaps as Christians, we might take a more trinitarian tack, and ask ourselves these questions before we hit the comment button on social media:
- Is it JUST?
- It is done in LOVING KINDNESS?
- Does it promote WALKING HUMBLY with God?