In every serious, lasting relationship, there comes a moment of truth in which at least one person must decide not to be the victim. Shunning the wisdom of Scripture, children supplant obedience with blame, squandering the due season of their adulthood with endless, poisonous rants about how others are responsible for their failures. Spouses wickedly nurture their “inner child” complaining of unmet emotional needs or of what their partner does or does not do for them. Neglecting “the weightier matters of the Torah,” such couples close their household to people with genuine problems, all the while condemning each other in pointless arguments about “mint and dill and cumin.” (Matthew 23:23) A patchwork of families broken–each concerned with their own needs–our communities become hollow shells. In Dr. King’s words, we build empty “neighborhoods” when what we need are “brotherhoods.” 1
Starved by Judah’s bareness (7:1) Micah laments just such a society, one devoid of the Lord’s wisdom. “Woe is me,” he cries, sent to harvest the fruit of the Torah from barren soil. (7:1) “The godly person has perished from the land. There is no upright person among men.” (7:2) “Each of them,” he explains, “hunts the other with a net,” as though neighbors were appointed for consumption, not communion. Warning of a judgment far worse than the Assyrian invasion, the prophet envisions a society in which each person’s enemies are of their own household:
5 Do not trust in a neighbor;
Do not have confidence in a friend.
From her who lies in your bosom
Guard your lips.
6 For son treats father contemptuously,
Daughter rises up against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.”
Isolated from neighbors and betrayed by friends, Judah’s victim mentality leads to a world characterized by self-righteous rebellion and broken trust, in which people share beds, but not intimacy.
Serving God in the struggle to save Zion from a self-inflicted Hell, Micah speaks of an alternative characterized by repentance (after a violent reboot) in which even the downtrodden remnant of Jerusalem comes to understand that its debt to God far outweighs any abuses suffered. (7:18) “As for me,” Micah exclaims, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.” (7:9) If Jerusalem were to follow Micah’s lead, seeing itself not as victim, but as oppressor, God might again show compassion (7:19) as in the days of Moses and Aaron (7:15) in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. (7:20) All this and more is possible in the Kingdom of God, if only Jerusalem would repent, embracing her enemies. “No one,” the proverb goes, “can live in Paradise without others.” 2
Alas, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
- King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Paul’s Letter to American Christians, November 4, 1956 (http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_pauls_letter_to_american_christians) ↩
- Old Arabic Proverb ↩