Series on Micah 6:8: Faithful Love
“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” ~Micah 6:8 (CEB)
In our second week looking at Micah 6:8, we examine the second “item” on the list: translated in the Common English Bible as “embrace faithful love.”
This one has been the hardest for scholars to translate! From the Hebrew “ahavat esed”, various interpretations have given:
“to love mercy” (King James Version, 1611)
“to love kindness” (Revised Standard Version, 1948, followed by New Revised Standard Version)
“to love loyalty” (Jerusalem Bible)
“to love goodness” (Jewish Publication Society)
“to show constant love” (Good News Bible)
“to be compassionate and loyal in your love” (The Message)
“to embrace faithful love” (Common English Bible)
“Do justice” and “walk humbly with your God” hardly ever change, but this middle injunction goes all over the place!
What, then, shall we take out of it? What does the Lord “require” from us? (*Note: require here is not so much as a demand as what God needs – it has the sense of a child requiring love from their parents, or a flower requiring rain or sunshine. As Rev. James Howell notes, “God seeks them, yearns for them, and frankly needs them from us as intimate partners in God’s adventure down here.”)
“Ahavat esed” has nuances of all of these translations – mercy, kindness , loyalty, constancy, compassion, and faithfulness. There is tenderness and tenacity. Ahavat esed means “to love covenant loyalty.”
Covenant loyalty is a way of life. It is worship as community on Sunday and it is the worship of how we spend our free time, or how we eat, how we work, or how we make amends with someone we have hurt. It is a compact with God and one another. It is not something to be feared or dreaded – it is love – the kind of love that excites us, that dominates our thoughts, that makes us smile to ourselves when we think of it. (Credit to James Howell in What Does the Lord Require?—Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly for these observations).
In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson describes a lifestyle of this covenant loyalty, constantly and doggedly working for those who have been wronged. He tells the story of a woman at a courthouse who does the same thing by simply sitting with those who are grieving – the family of ones who have been murdered, and then the family of those who did the murdering. They are stone catchers – even Christians throw stones at those who fall down in our walk, even when we should forgive or show compassion, and rather than letting that happen, we have to be stonecatchers.
Covenant loyalty is shown when we act in community in a lifestyle of kindness, evidenced by behaviors, actions, sacrifice, and habit, when we make amends with those we have hurt; when we live in our world with tenderness and tenacity of love, just like the woman at the courthouse, catching stones and sitting with others in their pain, just like Bryan Stevenson, who recognizes that we are more than our brokenness, just like Martin Luther King, Jr, who fought with tenderness and tenacity for civil rights.
These are lives following Micah 6:8.
And because you have received the mercy and love of our God, yours can be, too.