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Service Based on Mercy and Justice Bolsters Dignity

He has shown you, O mortal, 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. Micah 6:8

When read by itself, this verse from Micah makes serving others seem straightforward. The verses before it, however, highlight the struggle that humans have always had in determining God’s will for our actions. Chapter 6 of Micah begins with the Lord rebuking Israel for forgetting His faithfulness and goodness toward them, for reacting to all of the love and generosity He has shown them by turning to sin. Verse 8 is the answer to Israel’s [paraphrased] question, “What do you want from us then?”

Serving others and loving them well isn’t always as easy as it sounds. This was true even for the generations that saw God demonstrate such love firsthand, when he rescued them from Egypt. So there is no shame in examining our own motives when trying to determine how God wants us to help others. At The Mosaic Center, we recognize that Micah 6:8 is a multifaceted answer; we are to focus on justice and mercy with humility. We cannot lean too heavily on one or the other – what is good in God’s eyes is a balance of both justice and mercy.

In nonprofit and religious sectors, mercy tends to come most naturally. Jesus likened caring for the poor to caring for Jesus himself: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, NIV)

And so, as Christians, we feed and clothe, and we care for those who are in prison, or hospitals, or who are homebound. That is mercy. But what of justice?

To act justly is to act in truth and in fairness. It is to help those whom we serve to move toward a fuller life in Jesus by examining the wider reality of their situation. And this starts by truly viewing those we serve as equals. When seen as “charity cases” or with pity (as opposed to empathy), the people with whom we seek relationship are reduced to an image of fragile beings who do not know how to help themselves – the smallest of children. 

But that isn’t who they are! They are our brothers and sisters, and they are God’s children. And knowing them as such is one of the first steps in checking our own mentality to ensure that we are treating those we serve with dignity – as adults, as friends, as fellow travelers. 

In action, justice looks like including those we serve in our own recovery because we recognize we are all on this journey together. It is participating together in the steps toward freedom offered through Free Tuesdays. It is learning how to learn together through our GED program, by creating a learning environment free of timetables and classroom distractions so that adults of all needs can focus on their own education. It is moving forward together with Women of Worth as we walk with women out of incarceration and into the future that God has for them. It is playing together and empowering families through our Exceptional Circles partnerships. And it is serving together through The Pantry and Pathways, where household necessities are sold to the impoverished at a small fraction of retail value so that the purchasers maintain their dignity by buying items for themselves and their families. 

Dignity. It is the word for this season of The Mosaic Center. It is a word that shines light on the goodness of God and the value of all his children.

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