The Bible does not make things complicated for us. A friend of mine once said, “It’s not rocket science, is it?” Just a straightforward outline like the Ten Commandments is surely not capable of misinterpretation? For example, how many ways can I understand “You shall not kill”?
And yet whole ponds of ink are splashed out to prove me (and my friend) wrong. What about mitigating circumstances, manslaughter, crime passionnel, accidental homicide? What about war itself? Is all war always wrong?
So Jesus took it even further. If “war” presupposes the existence of enemies, he said: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matt 5:44).
Get out of that one.
But as soon as something gets nailed into place, it we attempt to prise it loose.
And, as in the powerful metaphor of Proverbs 22:28, we try to fiddle about the precise lines drawn long ago, to find a bit of self-justifying moral wriggle-room. The verse replies: “Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations.”
That is to say, that truth has borders, right? And even if you concede that there are oftentimes “grey areas” there comes a time when right has become wrong.
I guess that was spelt out in the ancient narratives of Genesis. As soon as a restriction is put in place (“Don’t eat that fruit”) comes the temptation to slither round it (“Has God really said…?”).
Remember: God is not setting rules and restrictions just to spoil our fun or inhibit our free expression. He desires relationship with free moral creatures. Consequently, I love the sheeruncomplicated simplicity of Micah 6:8:
“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?”
Isn’t that great? Ultimately, what is “required” is not a sort of subservient robot-dance (“Yess Masster….By your command. Beep”), but what is “good.” He wants our “good” the way parents want their kids to have a healthy body by eating their greens. This is GOOD for you.
And what is that good? (And is it as repulsive as sprouts?). The prophet Micah gives us three non-negotiable verbs.
Do. Love. Walk. The three verbs comprise our actions, our motivation and our destiny.
Do justice. Take your stand upon those boundary markers of truth and don’t be budged.
Love kindness. Just in case that “standing up for my rights” becomes a bit aggressive and self-important, be unfailingly kind. It’s the Jesus-way. Nothing else will do.
Walk humbly with your God. Remember that this -all this- is God’s show, not yours. And take your place accordingly.
It’s not rocket-science.