- Act justly - Follow the rules and apply them fairly
- Love mercy - The original Hebrew word for mercy used in this scripture refers to a faithfulness to covenantal relationships
- Walk humbly - Have a proper perspective on your circumstances
I was moved by the exegesis of this scripture. Speaking of having a proper perspective...this scripture took on such new meaning for me. And now that it's been broken down, let's build it back up into an environmental scripture with more guts.
What are the rules for living in this world? What has God called us to do? In the Old Testament, we see commands to let the ground lay fallow once every seven years. We interpret this rule as an instruction for not overusing our resources. The Ten Commandments themselves are a wealth of rules that if we followed them with more intention and thought, we may avoid many environmental issues. "I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before me." Hmmm....how often do we slip by that one? Yet, I believe that many of our social, economic, and environmental ills stem from worshiping false gods...the love of money, individualism, ego, pride, greed... I could go on, but I think you get the point. The New Testament calls on us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we were to apply this rule fairly, what would it mean for "the least of these?" Would there be enough food and clean water? Would the oppressed people of this world bear an unfair burden?
We have a covenantal relationship with God, God has a covenantal relationship with nature (Genesis 9), and many of us have covenantal relationships with other people. We must ask ourselves when we degrade God's creation, are we being faithful to God's covenantal relationship with nature and with humanity? Are we allowing for an abundant life? Are we impeding the flow of grace in this world? Is this an act of love? Am I being faithful to all that God has taught me? If we value other people, then we must value caring for the creation that provides sustenance and life for all of the world.
Humility is one of those paradoxical puzzles in life: if you know you have it, you don't; if you don't know you have it, you probably do. Ultimately a proper perspective means to realize that the world does not revolve around you. I know that I have struggled with perspective, wondering what God's will is for my life and what am I supposed to be doing. That's a very me-centric position, as if I am going to change or save the whole world. As I've aged, my perspective has changed. God's will is for me to be in relationship with God (see the previous two sections). No matter where I am or what I am doing, I must honor my relationship with God and with others through love, respect, honor, and humility. Hopefully these actions will change a part of the world, but I know realize that I am not the center of the universe.
This perspective is useful for environmentalists who see all the world's problems and are overburdened by them. It is a gift to see the need for healing and wholeness and, yes, we are called to act. But at what cost? Do we kill ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually to save the world? I think God wants us to honor ourselves in that process too. There are things we can do to make a difference, but, like Jesus, we must temper action with rest and prayer, realizing that God holds it all and we have just one little piece. With 6 billion people in the world, I think we can share the burden of saving the world with at least a few other people. Let the grace of God free you to hold only your piece of the pie.
Now hear what the Lord has required of you....to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.