I assume that Micah 6:8 was as beautiful in Hebrew as it is in English:
...what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
The prose can wander around my head for days just because it is so beautiful.
But it seems that it has been wandering around my head without my head getting a clear picture of what the prose actually means.
Justice and mercy are a bit at odds with each other, aren't they? I mean, justice means making sure that a wrong doesn't go unpunished and mercy means that, well, a wrong goes unpunished. So how do the two concepts end up right next to each other in Micah 6:8?
Not that these are foreign concepts to me. I know about justice and mercy, and it goes like this:
When I've done wrong, I want mercy.
When I've been wronged, I want justice.
Like so much else I learn from the Master, I think that the freedom and beauty lies in finding that my natural instincts are backwards.
The stress in Micah's words seems to be for a one way justice--from me to others. Act Justly. I think of Zacchaeus paying back those he'd cheated four times the amount he had taken from them. This is acting justly.
I think about Jesus having his beard ripped out by the roots while someone else's hot, hate-filled saliva dribbles down his face. Love Mercy. He utters not a word...when he could have uttered words to terminate his tormentors' existence on the spot. This is loving mercy.
Taking the prose to heart then, for me, means that it needs to go like this:
When I've done wrong, I will act justly.
When I've been wronged, I will give mercy.
When I step back and look at the broad strokes of how justice is portrayed throughout the riches of scripture, from Micah to Jesus, it seems safe to say that we are to fight for justice for others and allow God to sort out justice for ourselves. My exposure to Christian culture often seems to be pushing in the other direction--we fight for justice for us and our own and let God sort everyone else out.