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? — Micah 6:8
Micah 6:8 was the ordination verse of about a third of the pastors I know. And for good reason—it’s a good one! Poetic and commanding. Wouldn’t I love to be described that way?
Like most verses in scripture, it shouldn’t be taken out of context. I wouldn’t put them on my ordination bulletin, but the verses that come before are better than poetic; they’re a little snarky! Loosely translated, they go something like this:
“How shall I stand before God? Should I bow dramatically and offer things God doesn’t really need? Will a bazillion gifts cut the mustard and make me look good before God? Should I pony over my first kid to God to make up for all my sins?” —Micah 6:6-7
Then the prophet wrote no, God doesn’t want all that fanfare. Keep your kid. Save your back. God just wants you to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
So what does it mean to “DO” justice?
Here’s the thing: in this era, we have to be clear that clicking a “like” or a tear emoji, signing online petitions, changing your profile picture to reflect support of a social justice movements . . . these are not “doing” justice. These are passive, not active. They are fine in and of themselves, but when we think we have actually done something to further the cause of God’s justice in the world by changing our profile picture or clicking a “care” emoji and don’t do anything else, we are certainly not doing justice.
Yes, social media is an amazing tool for organizing, for alerting people to pending issues, needs, etc. But it is a step. Imagine if young John Lewis, Reverends Hosea Williams and Martin Luther King Jr., the original 500-600, and the 25,000 that eventually joined them to walk 12 miles a day, sleeping along the roads at night had changed their profile pictures or clicked a heart on a meme about voting rights instead of showing the powers that be that they were not going to stop until voting rights were achieved, even if it meant risking their lives. Achieving the Voting Rights Act required real action, not the armchair variety.
Social media support becomes detrimental to discipleship when it makes us feel like we’ve done something real. This is not the living, breathing faith in action that makes an actual difference in the lives of real people.
What does doing justice look like? It might mean writing or calling your representatives and speaking up on behalf of people whose voices are not always heard—people who are homeless, struggling economically, seeking asylum, victims of violence, discrimination, voter suppression, climate change, and so on. Ask any congressional office what they pay attention to and they will tell you a form advocacy email has much less weight than a personalized one or even better, a real letter or a call. And it makes sense—the amount of time it takes me to click through a few autogenerated forms is seconds. When a legislature’s office receives hundreds of calls on one issue, they start paying attention.
It might mean helping a neighbor or a stranger, sewing masks and quilts for people on the other side of the world, sharing your resources with church and charity, swinging hammers at your local home build, handing out meals for kids during COVID. The opportunities to actively live out faith are many, varied, and everywhere.
God doesn’t need passive activism when children need food in their bellies; kids don’t eat memes. Let your social media presence be a tool to your active engagement in God’s world—a place to start, not to stop.
Miriam Webster’s definition of “do:” [i]
To bring to pass, perform, commit, to give freely, to put forth, to bring into existence.
Bring it to pass.
Commit to it.
Give it freely.
Put it forth.
Bring it into existence.