How Micah 6:8 Inspires Us to Serve New York City

October 22, 2019
New York city skyline

At Hope for New York's annual Fall Benefit, the inspiring night included affiliate stories from Stella Reed (Executive Director of Dream Center NYC), an encouraging talk on the verse Micah 6:8 by Dr. Michael Keller (Pastor of Redeemer Lincoln Square), and musical performances by Liz Vice and Mason Jar Music.

Watch a video showcasing our affiliates reading Micah 6:8 in different languages, and then read what Dr. Keller shared about why HFNY exists “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly" alongside its partner organizations.

How Micah 6:8 Drives HFNY from Hope for New York on Vimeo.

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


Why does Hope for New York exist? It’s contained in this one verse—Micah 6:8—that is often quoted but also misunderstood.

Doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly. First, doing justice. This doesn’t just mean to do something in a fair way. The word justice shows up over 200 times in the Bible—and it means essentially giving people what they are due. While we as New Yorkers might not think we owe anyone anything, the writer of this verse came from a culture that defined wickedness as people advantaging themselves by disadvantaging the community. To do justice here means the opposite, it means disadvantaging yourself to advantage the community. Who is this community? For us, it’s this city and every living soul in it.

To do justice, then, means working to make the situation that needs help not to happen in the first place. We are to help the immediate needs but also work for a world where the need doesn’t happen in the first place. When we try to change the conditions that create poverty—such as bettering schools, job training, and advocating for the oppressed—we are working on the social forces that are not treating people equally and therefore are unjust.

Next, the verse says to love mercy. The word mercy here means “undeserved deliverance.” This is essentially the definition of grace. Grace is not just favor in the absence of merit, it’s actually favor in the presence of deserved demerit. So what does it actually mean to do justice and mercy?

If justice is putting the needs of the community before your own, showing mercy is alleviating needs and hurts directly. In the video, you saw Dream Center’s Stella and volunteer Miss Emma: they show up, they make food, they break bread together, they live life together—they are being good neighbors. That’s all mercy. We show compassion and mercy when we see people suffering or struggling and we try to alleviate it. Just this year, the church that I’m a pastor at—Redeemer Lincoln Square—has decided to partner on a much deeper level with 7 of HFNY’s 58 affiliates so that we could meet their needs more directly.

Here is the key—looking at this verse again, notice that it doesn’t say give mercy or grace; it says we have to love it. Love God’s unobligated and undeserved deliverance. What does that mean? Micah knows our hearts better than we do—we love receiving grace, but if we really loved God’s grace, then we would love giving it as well. You can’t just receive love. Real biblical love means understanding, passing it on and expressing it to others. Micah is saying we cannot show mercy because we have to. That really wouldn’t be mercy. We have to want to. It’s not simply serving at a soup kitchen every once in a while because we are “supposed to” but rather out of the sincere desire to love our neighbor.

This is why lastly, we are told to walk humbly with our God. This word walk gets across the idea of fellowship. When you walk with someone you talk to them—in fact, often one of the best ways to get into great conversations with someone is to go on a long walk with them. The word humility and especially the word our in relationship to God, conveys intimacy and close fellowship. The stress is always on us to walk humbly with our God, but what does it take for him to walk with us? Through his son’s life and work, God humbled himself, so he could walk with us.
Friends, he walked and is walking with you, so you can walk with him. Our hearts are brimming with so much undeserved grace that now we want to pour ourselves out for others.

So through Christ and his gospel, we can do justice and love mercy—while walking humbly with our God. Micah 6:8 is a three-part charge—we can’t pick it apart—to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, all because God’s love for us allows us to set out to really truly love others now.

So HFNY was born out of a desire to do Micah 6:8 well. We want to see more churches, and nonprofits, and individuals such as you together committing to the flourishing of this city through both justice and mercy. Let's bond with affiliates so they can operate at their greatest potential. We can love and serve this city, by allowing her and others to continue to love and serve their neighbors well. Knowing we have been given justice and mercy, we can now give both out well.