“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
It was March 9 when I told my family I was considering a new tattoo. In fact, I’d been considering it for much longer than that, but was finally ready to go forward with it. It’s comprised of three symbols (in Korean, only because they’re so beautiful) that represent justice, mercy, and humility. These come from a verse that has long meant much to me—Micah 6:8.
A few years ago, I was watching a speech by Coach Lou Holtz, and he challenged the audience with this statement: “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you figure out WHY you were born.” I thought I knew why I was born at that time—to one day donate a kidney to someone in need. It was just something I KNEW I was put on this earth to do, you know? But then he answered the question, and to my recollection, he said something to the effect of us being born to know and glorify God. Oh, yes, well that, I thought to myself, but also to donate a kidney.
Well, over the next few weeks and months, I also began to think about Micah 6:8. According to this verse, God has shown me what is good—to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord my God. This meant to me that, even if life conspired to prevent me from the kidney donation (or the other unfulfilled dreams I had about what glorifying God would look like in this life), I could still honor God through the way I would choose to live my everyday life.
So back to March 9. It was a few days before COVID-19 hit—or at least before the reality of it really hit the US. By the time I would have been able to schedule an appointment at the tattoo parlor, it and everything else in town was closed. But during the next couple of months, the words—justice, mercy, humility—would take on a new meaning. I realized that even absent the physical image of these symbols displayed on my body, I could live them out amidst a global crisis. I could stay home to keep my neighbors safe, I could recognize the great risks and sacrifices being taken daily by the front line and essential workers around me, I could wear a mask in public to protect the most vulnerable, I could learn about the disparities and injustices in the outcomes of this virus that stem from racial and socioeconomic inequality, and so much more.
But in the past couple of weeks, these words—justice, mercy, humility—have taken on yet another meaning and significance. In the wake of the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd (among others), we have seen on one hand, Americans stand in solidarity and call for justice, and on the other, the destruction and devastation that seem to inevitably arise when voices go unheard for far too long. During this time, what does it look like to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord my God? First, I can see and acknowledge and SPEAK UP when I see injustice. I can not wave horrific actions and outcomes away on the argument that they are perpetrated by “a few bad apples.” I can say out loud that the status quo is NOT acceptable. I can show mercy to people who are hurting beyond what I can even fathom or begin to understand. But I can hear the words that my brothers and sisters are saying, and I can believe them. I can do my very best to empathize, even when those efforts fall embarrassingly short of truly seeing through their eyes and walking in their shoes. I can walk humbly by acknowledging my privilege, rather than denying it and pretending like the playing field is equal, and the hand dealt each of us is fair and unbiased. I can give of my time, my money, and my voice to be part of the solution that has been too long in coming.
Goodness, when the day comes that I can finally get this tattoo, its meaning is going to be so loaded that I will never be able to easily answer someone who asks me, “What does your tattoo say?” And, you know what, I think it’s better that way. Who knows, maybe it will start a conversation that needs to be had.
My prayer today is that you, and all of us, would join together today and every day in the cause of justice, mercy, and humility—knowing that THIS is what God sees as good.