Forming Faith Blog

Justice, Mercy, and Worship (Micah 5 & 6)

What is the “right” way to worship? The prophet Micah doesn’t comment on music choices or liturgy, but he is clear that how we live our lives is more important than temple worship.

A person sitting in worship with a hymnal open.

This week, we move from the stories of Joshua, David, Solomon, and Elisha in the Histories, to the Prophets. The people have abandoned God and the covenant God made with them. God pronounces judgment upon their actions, both their idolatry and the injustice they do. But, God’s judgment and mercy both arise from a desire for peace, for a just world governed by the love of God and the love of others. God has a plan for peace.

Idolatry and Injustice

The Book of Micah spends more time condemning social injustice than idolatry, though that is certainly present (see Micah 5:10-15). And, after reading Micah, it is impossible to state that faith should stay out of politics. In fact, our faith must be active in the public sphere to be living faith at all. This is not a new or groundbreaking statement. Many others have said this better than I could, and many have never stopped doing this.

What Is Good

After a good bit of condemnation for injustice, and the promise of a ruler out of Bethlehem, Micah comes to the passage that is probably the most famous out of this book. Micah 6:6-8 begins with a question of worship. “With what shall I come before the LORD?” It becomes very clear that extravagant worship is not what God most wants from us. God wants—no, requires—us to worship not only in a sanctuary but with our whole hearts and whole lives. Our very selves should be oriented toward God and those around us, especially those who cry for justice.

Do Justice

If we follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and Jesus!), we cannot have a private faith. First on the list of God’s requirements for us is to “do justice.” Justice is not a private affair. Working for justice requires activity in the public realm, the realm of politics, government, economy, and society. Justice is not about treating everyone the same (though treating everyone with equal dignity as beloved creations of God is part of it). Justice is about ensuring that everyone has what they need. This requires both direct actions to alleviate suffering and working for the transformation of the systems that cause or ignore that suffering.

Love Kindness

As I understand, the Hebrew word here translated as “kindness” (hesed) is a difficult one to translate into English, as it is not a concept we have a word for. Hesed expresses an idea of love that is defined by God’s covenant relationship with Israel, no matter what they have done. It involves love, mercy, and loyalty which are unconditional and undeserved.

One of the concepts in the New Testament that is close to this is that of grace, which might be easier for us to think of. God gives us grace (unconditional, undeserved love and forgiveness) and God calls us to love—devote ourselves to—this grace. We are to be thankful to God for this grace. And, most importantly, we are to share this grace with those around us, especially those who need it the most. How? See Do Justice above (and our five-lesson, children and intergenerational unit also titled Do Justice!).

Walk Humbly (with Your God)

The third requirement here is a call for humility and faithfulness. As we move through life, we should do so with an attitude of humility, a focus outward on others rather than focusing inward on ourselves. This is inherent in the first two commands as well. Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly all are about focusing on other people and their needs, not our own. But, one critical part of this verse is the very last bit. All this justice, kindness, and humility is to be done “with your God.” These are not things to do apart from God, but with God. And, it is not about a distant God, but your God, a personal and communal relationship with the God who will never forsake us.

What about Us?

How do we deal with all this? First, a theological point. This is not about salvation or earning a relationship with God. This is about how we respond to the grace God gives us. This is what an active faith and worship look like.

Second, this is a call to action. This is not just something we learn or something we teach, but something we do. I don’t know about you, but this can all be overwhelming. It is a call to change the world and, most specifically, our lives. That is a tall order. How do we know we have done enough? The answer is that we cannot do enough. We will always fall short, both because of sin and human limitations. But, we are enough, for God loves us unconditionally.


Something I personally struggle with is comparing myself and my actions with others. There are many people who are much more active in the work of direct service and working for systemic change than me. But, they are also different people with different lives. I am who God has created me to be, and I live the life God has given me. So, when we think about how we can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, here is a useful process:

What do you already do?

Ask this question and look over your life. Where do you show love and service to others? Perhaps it’s within your family, workplace, school, or church? Perhaps it’s in acts of kindness with your local neighbors or strangers. Perhaps it’s being conscious of your spending, giving, and investing. Perhaps it’s by recycling or planting a tree. Making a list will give us some confidence, and if you share all or part of your list in a group setting, it may give ideas to others.

Where can you grow?

What we already do is not enough. God does not call us to sit on our laurels and pat ourselves on the backs. As individuals, families, small groups, and churches, we can do more and do it better. Brainstorm some changes and/or work you can do for others. Choose some small tasks to incorporate into your daily life and perhaps a larger project you can do by yourself, or (better yet) in some sort of group. Be realistic, and then do it!

This exercise is directed more toward adults than kids, but it is also important to include the younger disciples in our families and congregations in the thinking, planning, and doing stages of this. Not only will this teach them to work for others, but you might be surprised at the ideas and insight a younger perspective can bring.


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Note: this post has been adapted from a blog post published for November 11, 2018.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Being Kind” a reflective activity from our Living the Word: Kids (NL, PK-2nd) curriculum. This activity can be used intergenerationally or with most age groups individually.

2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources

The Fall is coming to an end and Winter (Advent through Transfiguration Sunday) is coming! Do you have everything you need for your faith formation ministries? Order Winter and Spring lessons of our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources, or one of our Learning Together units! You can download the lessons as soon as your payment is processed.

At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:

Stay updated by liking our Facebook page, subscribing to our e-newsletter, or following this blog!

Leave a Reply