He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Beginning tomorrow we will focus on the Passion of Our Lord, so today is the final entry in the “general” category. I think it is appropriate to end this segment with a very timeless and pertinent idea from God, that expressed in Micah 6:8.
Honesty compels us to agree with the first premise of this verse, the understanding that God has made what He expects of us, His people, very clear. And the second phrase even heightens this: He doesn’t only expect this of us, He requires it of us. And what is that? Do justice. Love kindness. Walk with God in humility. These have always been the attributes of the true believer and always will be. These are the requirements of those who wish to identify with Jesus. These are only hard to do because the world, the flesh, and the devil war against these personality attributes. I said that mostly tongue in cheek because honesty also compels us to say that living thus doesn’t come naturally. Fact is, that’s a lot of warring against the will of God for us.
So, how are you doing with this list of three? I confess that I am still very much in a battle to break through and have these traits become my guide and stay. With that said, I think there is something to be said for “being in the battle.”
Theodore Roosevelt lived in the battle, except in the following quote he called it “the arena.” Consider his thoughts:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Now, this is not pure Christian theology, but it is not bad and is worthy of our consideration. Teddy urges us to continue to make the effort to reach our goals; our goals are given by God and are quite clear. We are not to be “cold and timid souls.” Let me tell you how close Teddy came to that ignominious end, but prevailed and fought the good fight until his death.
Teddy met the woman he would later marry when he was 20 and she 19. His devotion to her was intense and his hopes for their marriage knew no bounds.
But, a long marriage between Theodore and Alice was not to be. This diary entry followed Alice’s death in childbirth at age 22. Theodore was so completely distraught at her passing that he nearly stopped living. As history tells us, time and a new love would restore his fervor for life and service. Let his thoughts of his dear Alice soak in as you appreciate this photo of her taken when she was 17:
“She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair beautiful young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.”
These are the musings of a very broken man, a lover whose love is gone. He is a man who doesn’t believe, at this point, that life can ever be good again. Let me just say, I have been that man, and I bring Teddy Roosevelt into the discussion because I think we can learn much from him about continuing our heart’s devotion to the “requirements” of Christ even when it seems fruitless. Teddy fought back. He learned that the causes he championed were eminently more worthy than his personal pains. As you think of that, please humbly and prayerfully and honestly consider the battle our Savior waged to ultimately emblazon the “cause of Christ” on our own battle flags.
Finally, a first-hand story about Teddy Roosevelt. My sister was fortunate to live with her family on the “home place” of what had, at one time, been an estate in north central Illinois that stretched from Tiskilwa to Tampico. That’s a long ways. Her landlady was much like the Dowager Empress on “Downton Abbey.” Mrs. Ann McKim was cultured, bright, somewhat condescending, but ultimately a kind and generous soul. She told me, for instance, that her mother made her go to the Riviera and/or the mountains of North Carolina on periodic “getaways” so that she was not infected with two things from the locals in Bureau County; two things that started with the letter “g”: germs and bad grammar.
The story of her family’s rise and fall could, indeed, serve as inspiration for a TV show. While interviewing her once on video tape, I told her that I had found some letters from Theodore Roosevelt written to her parents. These letters were just sitting out on a desk. (That desk also held two letters from Abraham Lincoln, but not to her family. Treasures, though.) When I told her that, she through her head back and laughed, saying, “David, David, David… let me tell you about Teddy Roosevelt…
She then unveiled the fact that five Presidents of the United States had stayed in the very house we were sitting in at that moment. (We were actually seated on the upstairs veranda, enjoying the cool breeze and the “golden hour” light of the evening.) Teddy Roosevelt, as you may know, loved the outdoors. He especially loved hunting and traveled the world pursuing all manner of game.
This farm of hers was then and still is a “mini game preserve.” I used to take fellow workers and clients hunting there all the time. Wild and wonderful, amidst the hills and fields of the estate and Teddy loved it.
After he had been President but was then out of office, Teddy traveled to the estate for a hunting trip. One evening after dinner, Teddy got down on the floor on all fours and told Ann and her slightly older brother, John, that he was going to pretend to be a bear and that they needed to try to wrestle him. Well, wild and wonderful wrestling ensued and everyone enjoyed the role-playing on the floor.
That night, when Ann’s mother put the kids to bed, she said this: “Now children, I always want you to remember tonight, for you were playing on the floor with a very great man.”
Without batting an eye, young John shot forth with, “I don’t know if he is a very great man, but he is a very great bear!”
Keep wrestling. Keep fighting. Keep the faith. God wants to shape us and sometimes that shaping can be excruciatingly painful. But, remember, He wants you with your imperfect but longing heart, not a robot.
Clive says: “We might think that God wants simply obedience to a set of rules; whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.”