“What shall I bring when I come before Adonai,
and bow down before God on high?” you ask.
“Am I to come before God with burnt offerings?
With year-old calves?
Will Adonai be placated by thousands of rams
or ten thousand rivers of oil?
Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings –
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
Listen here, mortal:
God has already made abundantly clear
what “good” is, and what Adonai needs from you:
simply do justice,
and humbly walk with Adonai.
At its best religion links us back to the ground of our being. At its best religion serves in establishing a relationship with the sacred dimension of life. At its best religion connects us to the web of creation. At its best religion is life manifesting. Little wonder religion has always been a part of the human experience.
Micah asks the question central to all viable faiths, how do we honor the great Heart of the universe? Does the Sacred desire offerings – what size is appropriate for the One who is maker of heaven and earth? Or is the mark of an appropriate tribute its cost to us? Should it be something valuable like flesh of my flesh? As we saw with Abraham, many good religious parents have sacrificed their queer children’s flesh in order to appease a disappointed and angry god (see the post “Sick Religion”).
Micah says such thinking is foolishness. God does not desire things such as smoke off a burnt offering or blood for justice. Micah says that there is nothing we can do to honor God with “stuff.” Rather, it is the quality of relationships – justice, kindness, humility – that honor the Sacred. Accordingly Micah indicates that it is how we relate with others that truly links us to the ground of our being.
The philosopher, Martin Buber, expanded this insight with his understanding of I-Thou. He summarized that it is the life generated in and through the gift of a “You” (Thou) which permits and authorizes an “I.”
It is far easier to buy God off with “stuff” due to the inherent danger involved in honoring the Sacred through a close relationship. After all, when I am “being with” another it means being in the presence of, being committed to, being identified with, being at risk with (to borrow an insight of the scriptural scholar Walther Eichrodt).
Hence, Micah understands that lovers of the Sacred are those who do justice, adore kindness, and walk humbly upon the earth with God. This is religion at its best – this is religion which rocks my world!