Do justly and love mercy, not the other way around.

“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? -Micah 6:8

The wording of Micah 6:8 is important. I mix it up sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I love justice and do mercy (or kindness), instead of the other way around.

But aren’t we supposed to be merciful?

Yes, I’m sure.

Then why is that a bad thing?

It’s bad because it poisons the doer. We are meant to live justly now, as far as possible. And we are meant to love mercy, and to let it inform our sense of justice. But when we start to love justice while doing mercy, instead of loving mercy while doing justice, it changes us from being an advocate to being a judge with evil thoughts. An advocate is a person that looks for a way to support a person through the law. A judge is a person that condemns (or vindicates) a person through the law. As the latter, instead of being committed to justice in the world and simultaneously hating the fact that we have to deal out consequences to maintain it, we turn into people that love the payback, and only withhold it when we have to to be seen as kind. It destroys our heart for the perpetrator and turns ourselves into an idol that cannot walk humbly with God.

The better way is to do what the law demands, all the while pitying the transgressor and looking for the best way to restore them, walking humbly with God the whole way.