God has told you what he wants from you:
to do what is right to other people (justice),
love being kind to others (mercy)
and live humbly, obeying your God.
Micah 6:8 New Century Bible
Those people who know they have great spiritual needs are happy because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Matthew 5:3 (New Century Bible)
I was in a shopping mall in Xian, China a week before Christmas. I’d noticed a few Christmas promotions and been amazed at the impact of Western commercialism. And then over the speakers I heard the words of “O Happy Day”. It stopped me in my tracks. I just hadn’t expected to hear about Jesus washing my sins away in the middle of China. I imagine I wouldn’t have thought twice if I’d heard the same song in an Adelaide mall two weeks later. Another thing – I think the Chinese people really got into the song because it fitted in with the desire to make people ‘happy’.
So in Matthew 5 we have the teaching of Jesus about being happy or blessed.
Connecting with my own popular culture immediately takes me back to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “Blessed are the Cheesemakers”. Or to McDonald’s, “Happy Meals with Cheeseburgers”.
But enough of such frivolity! What does this guy Jesus mean by ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’? Does he mean ‘stoked’, ‘pumped’? Like some people feel after attending the latest Planetshakers conference or Big Day Out? Somehow I don’t think he’s referring to that kind of high power experience in his sermon on the mount. I don’t think he had a band playing praise and worship before this meaty talk. I don’t think this message got the crowd going. The things Jesus links to happiness are more low key and down to earth…
Those people who know they have great spiritual needs because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
This sounds like everyday stuff to me. Knowing that I’ve got a long way to go on the journey makes it possible to keep moving.
Those who are now sad – God will comfort them.
Grieving for genuine loss, whether that be leaving behind the comfort of living for myself or the inevitable bereavement of losing friends and family. It’s hard to experience God’s comfort when I’m cushioned with illusionary thinking.
Those who are humble – the earth belongs to them.
If I tie myself up in what I perceive to be my possessions – property etc – I will miss the whole creation that God has placed me in, alongside everyone else.
Those who want to do right more than anything else – God will fully satisfy them.
If I’m looking for my sense of happiness in having a comfortable lifestyle some time in the future – I will never have enough. But living each day to live God’s challenge – there’s a satisfaction that cannot be taken away, even when the bank account looks dismal!
Those who show mercy to others – God will show mercy to them.
It is hard to live with yourself when you’re living with black and white rules that define who’s OK and who’s not. I am happy that I don’t have to live in danger of falling into condemnation. And that’s what I’m trying to put into practice with others around me.
Those who are pure in their thinking – they will be with God.
This one’s hard for a person like me who’s mind is all over the place. To focus myself in prayer or on God’s direction – when it happens there is a sense of God’s presence. In some ways this blog is helping me with that.
Those who work to bring peace – God will call them his children.
To take part in God’s dream of reconciliation among people – there is a happiness that comes not just from the healed relationships, but also from the sense of being in harmony with God’s heart.
Those who are treated badly for doing good because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Just like those who know their spiritual needs, those who have been misunderstood, taken for granted, abused, slandered while expressing the heart of God… these people have a connection with what God is up to in the world. I don’t think this is just about having a reward after we die. There’s a sense here of being part of bringing God’ reign into action.
What a combination of attitudes and actions. It’s right in tune with God’s call expressed in Micah’s words… justice, mercy and humility in relationship with God and others.
I’ve just been pointed to the Micah Call by Bruce Mullan. After I signed up, 4701 people had committed themselves to a lifestyle of justice, mercy and humility, with particular reference to those affected by poverty.
The Micah Call is an important first step in the new global campaign called the Micah Challenge, which aims to deepen Christian engagement with the poor and to influence leaders to keep their promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and halve world poverty by 2015.
The Micah Call will act like a global petition to show leaders the strength of Christian support. It is particularly important that we demonstrate our support prior to the G8 meeting in Scotland in July 2005. Decisions taken at that meeting on trade, aid and debt will have a critical impact on the ability of poor nations to address poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The Micah Call explains why our generation has an almost unique opportunity to turn poverty around and how as Christians we have been shown by the prophets and by the teachings and life of Jesus that holistic engagement with the poor is integral to our discipleship. The Micah Challenge takes it’s name from Micah 6:8 ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.’
The Millennium Development Goals are explained on the website. The key things to know are that all United Nations member states, as well as the major international institutions (eg the World Bank), have promised to achieve the Goals, and that if they are achieved poverty will be halved by 2015.
Take a moment to visit the Micah Challenge website and consider signing the Micah Call. The address is www.micahchallenge.org.