Have You Got Good Religion?
Have you got good religion,
Have you got good religion,
Have you got good religion?
Cert’nly, cert’nly, cert’nly Lord!
These words are the first stanza of the African American Hymn, “Have you got good religion.” It is a beautiful hymn to hear sung by an anointed and trained choir. Especially during Black History Month.
In five stanzas, the hymn summarizes the theology of the Christian. Theology, the study of God. Theology, what you know and what you believe about your God. What you know and what you believe dictates what you do.
Here at MICAH, we are clear about what we as a fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ will focus our attention, energies, prayers, time, and resources on. We are here on purpose. We are a people with a mission.
As the pastor of MICAH, there are two questions that I am often asked: “What does the name ‘MICAH’ mean?” and “Why was it chosen as the name for this church?”
First, it was only after much prayer and back and forth with God, that I came to believe that MICAH would be the name. For many years, whenever I have read Micah 6:8, it always quickened my spirit. It always inspired me to keep on trying to live for God, in spite of what I see and hear. It always inspired me to have hope. Hope, that personal assurance that things will work out. That God will work things out in my favor.
"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 speaks about our theology. These simple words tell us what our God wants us to do. Your God. My God. Our God.
God chose an interesting vessel, in the person of the prophet Micah, to deliver this message. Micah had a difficult task. He had to preach to people he knew and loved. He had to preach to the chosen people of God. A people who God blessed, delivered, not just one time, but again and again.
The context of Micah is full of lessons. The kingdom of God had been divided into two kingdoms because of disobedience and idolatry among God’s chosen people. Two kingdoms, the Northern and the Southern. The northern kingdom was called Israel. The southern kingdom was called Judah.
Samaria was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem was the capital of Judah. The Prophet Micah was from the southern kingdom. Yet, his prophecy spoke much to the northern kingdom and focused on the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem.
Micah pronounced judgement on these two cities. Much like cities today, Samaria and Jerusalem influenced the people of the nation. Much like New York City and Washington, DC. They were economic engines. They were trendsetters. People flocked to them to find jobs. To find homes. To have a better life.
Yet, just like what we see today, cities also have problems.
Problems. Idolatry. Evil schemes. Covetousness. Greed. Witchcraft. Dishonesty. Treachery. Illicit sex. Universal corruption. Let's call it what is it. Sin.
Problems and SIN. Samaria and Jerusalem had them.
The evidence was clear. You did not have to have a grand jury to review evidence and to hear testimonies to bring forth an indictment. God, himself, bore witness in Chapters 1 through 3.
Micah 1:2, declares, “Hear, all ye people, hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.”
Both people and priests and prophets were sinning. They were doing everything and anything including worshipping Molech and Baal, idol Gods. The rich and powerful took advantaged of the poor and dispossessed.
God had had enough.
The people of God had broken covenant with their God. When God delivered his people out of slavery in Egypt, God promised that he would be their God and they would be his people. God told them to love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with their strength and then to love your neighbor as yourself. But, once they got to the Promised Land, the people of God followed other Gods and mistreated their neighbors.
God was going to bring destruction. He was going to use his people’s enemy, the Assyrians, to do it.
It is in this context, that God sends Micah to confront the rulers of Israel and the religious leaders of Israel.
In Chapter 6, the leaders had the unmitigated gall to try and change the subject. Essentially, they say, we are good Jews. We go to temple every Sabbath. We offer sacrifices and we give generously to the temples. So, what does God expect from us?
And that is the question that the prophet Micah answers in Micah 6:8. The prophet’s answer is also the answer to what the People of Micah AME Mission Church will focus on as we journey together.
The people of MICAH will act justly.
First, the prophet says that we are to act justly. In other words, we must be a righteous people. We are to be just in our dealings with each other. Honest and true. Be fair.
We’re not supposed to cheat, steal, or lie. We’re not to treat people unfairly. We’re not to withhold justice. We’re not to favor the rich over the poor.
In the Old Testament, God was very particular about justice. He told his people on more than one occasion to never forget that they were strangers in Egypt and in turn, they should never mistreat the stranger. Furthermore, they were to treat orphans and widows with great care.
When we look around today and really ponder things. We can say that we know injustice. We can say that we have seen the poor being taken advantaged of and mistreated.
High interest loans made to people with good credit.
Liquor stores on every corner in certain neighborhoods.
Underfunding of schools.
Putting petty criminals in jail and letting white-collar criminals go free.
The killing of unarmed black men, women, boys and girls.
Not wanting to give people access to healthcare.
Not wanting to house the homeless.
Not wanting to give someone a job because his name is Jamal.
Not wanting to give equal pay for equal work.
Oh, we know injustice.
But, we must lift up our heads and don’t despair. The prophet Micah shows us what to do and that is call it—what it is. Evil. Injustice. Furthermore, we are not to back up or shut up. Confront those who do wrong and hold them accountable.
In this day and time, that means we are to be informed, vote, boycott, protest, and hold people accountable. Call evil, evil and wrong, wrong. Even, if they look like you.
Not only are we to hold other people accountable, we are to hold ourselves accountable. The people of God can’t just do everything and anything.
The people of MICAH will love mercy.
Love mercy is the second responsibility we have. What does “love mercy” mean?
In the Hebrew tradition, God is seen as being faithful to his people throughout history. No matter what his children did God never abandoned them.
Our God is loyal. He is gracious and compassionate. In turn, he wants us to be gracious and compassionate.
We are to live our lives respecting others, helping others, and loving others.
Feed the hungry. Invite the stranger in. Clothe the naked. Nurse the sick. Visit those in prison. Help the least of these.
Meet people at their level of need. Lift them up and not look down on them. We are to remember except by the grace of God, there goes you or I.
Love mercy. Be merciful.
The people of MICAH will walk humbly with God.
Walk humbly with God is our third responsibility. This means living a life pleasing to God. This means being sensitive to the things of God, and to the Spirit of God.
It means our hearts being broken by the things that break God’s heart. It means trying to see the world through the eyes of God and to act like God would act. This means having a heart for justice and compassion.
What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Our God. There is none like him. He is not complicated. He is simple and straight forward. To whom much is given, much is required. He requires those he has blessed to be a blessing to someone else. He requires those that have received mercy, to show mercy.
How can you walk with God and not love like him?
I thank God for the Prophet Micah. Although, he had to deliver a message of judgement and coming punishment, he did give people hope.
In Chapter 4, he preached about the establishment of a righteous kingdom. Where men would study war no more and every man would sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree. In Chapter 5, he spoke of the coming messiah and that he would be born in Bethlehem. And in Chapter 7, he preached about the reformation and restoration of God’s people.
As the people of God, no matter how bad things get, we can’t give up.
We have a hope. Yes, we are troubled on every side. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we mess up. Yes, we do wrong.
But thanks be to God, the messiah that the prophet preaches about is Jesus, our Savior and He is the focus of MICAH.
Jesus. Him born. Him crucified. Him resurrected.
We will preach, teach, and live Jesus because nobody can do for us, like Jesus. And we want other people to know it, believe it, and accept him as their Lord and Savior.
What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God and accept Jesus into your heart.