Read Micah 6:6-8
6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown all you people 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. (NIV)
How would you feel about a man who lavishes expensive gifts on his wife on special occasions and treats her like dirt on all other occasions? We would reckon the man had a twisted view of marriage and of faithfulness. So too with those who call themselves Christians and content themselves with ritual displays of religiosity or the odd grand gesture of devotion. The real nature of our faith is found out in the everyday landscape of life,not in the moments of formal religious observance.
The people of Israel were in a mess when Micah addressed these words to them. They figured perhaps they could get onside with God by going overboard with sacrifices (possibly even child sacrifice). Their chronic unfaithfulness might be overlooked by a God impressed by their extravagant offerings. Maybe the ritual would blind him to a more unpalatable reality.
No chance-then or now. God wants all of us,not a bit of Sunday morning,not our charity cheques,not the eloquence of our verbal devotion. He wants our works,not just our words. This is no prescription for a Christianity which is just ‘doing good’ and so impressing God. We know our goodness isn’t good enough because Jesus had to come and offer radical mercy for our shortcomings. It is rather a prescription for a Christianity which puts words into practice,which backs up ritual with obedience. All our church attendance,all our private devotions are to find everyday expression. And because God is a God of justice and mercy,this expression will have the flavour of justice and mercy.
And it won’t be any self-satisfied ‘goody-two-shoes’ type of piety either. We do what we do as we walk humbly with God,utterly dependent on him to be the people he destined us to be. Only in this way can we stop being religious and become truly Christian.