“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, 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?”
This is the word of the Lord.
What Makes A Good Life?
Good life. That is something that we need to pursue. You deserve it. You’re supposed to live a good life. I mean, we have one life we live. We’ve got to live a good life, so you need to pursue it, and you deserve it, and you have a right to do so. And God very much wants you to have good life.
At the staff meeting, I told the staff that this week’s sermon title is ‘good life’ and Reverend Sohn said, “it sounds like Good Life fitness.” That’s the first image that comes to your mind. And I told him that was exactly why I chose that title. Good life. I think that Good Life fitness has captured very well what modern people understand what they think about a good life. When people think about good life, they think about a healthy and active life.
We are obsessed with what we eat and we are very careful about what we eat. It’s not just older people these days who are eating healthy food, but a lot of young people are. It’s a trend, a lot of young people are into healthy food – it’s much more expensive, but they don’t mind paying more money for buying expensive food because, you know, “eat better, feel better.” And so they have all kinds of theories. Some stores who sell expensive organic food, they do very well. Not just tasty food, but healthy food. People choose to live a healthy life, and food is very important. A lot of health problems come from eating unhealthy food. We are eating and consuming way too much bad food.
I mean, ramen at night is like heaven, but it’s not necessarily good for your body. In an elevator on the way down from the exercise room, I happened to listen to these two young Korean men talking. I wasn’t intentionally listening to them, but they didn’t know that I was Korean, so they were speaking Korean to each other and I just had happened to listen to their conversation. They were talking about body building and they were giving tips to each other. I was quite surprised at how hard they exercise. When I go up there, I run on the treadmill and I say, “Wow, I did so much” and I look at my time – only 20 minutes at most. These guys are staying there three, four hours for their body. They workout religiously. It is good to exercise… healthy body, healthy mind. It is good to work hard, eat sensibly exercise regularly, and enjoy your life doing things that you enjoy. That’s how we define a good life and that’s how I’d like to define a good life too. You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to exercise, you’ve got to eat healthy food and you’ve got to enjoy whatever you really enjoy doing and that’s what I try to do too.
But when I look at those things, what I just described is all about external things. Food, exercise, work, and doing things you enjoy. These are things that we do on the outside, but how about the inside? Also all of these things are about me. It is all about me, and a good life cannot just be all about me. A good life is more than that. A good life is deeper than that… It’s not just about me.
The Three Pillars
In today’s scripture, people came to God actually complaining. Sometimes we use this passage during Christmas time. You may think that, like a devotional to God, “What do you require of me?” That’s how some songs are written and all that, but that’s mistaken. Here, the people came to God complaining because God was not very pleased with the Israelites at that time. Because they were very selfish, they were only thinking about themselves, and God was not happy with them. So the prophets rebuked the people, and people responded to God. They said, “What do you want, God? Do you want burnt offerings with calves a year old? Or do you want thousands of rams? No, or do you want ten thousands of rivers of oil? If that is enough, then God, shall I give my first born for my sin? Then you’ll be satisfied? What do you want?” That’s what they were saying. It wasn’t like, “God, what do you require?” like a devotional response. They were angry at God.
So there was a sarcastic tone in their response to God, and God said to them, “Oh, mortal, what is good?” It sounded like to me, “What is a good life?” God is saying, a good life is to the justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. I want you to remember these three things. (Can you put it up please?) Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. These are pillars of a good life. Doing justice is to do with morality, but morality is often viewed as a personal thing, personal morality. Doing justice is to do with not you, but with other people and the earth we live in.
We are doing a terrible injustice to our environment. We need to do something about it. We are abusing the earth, resources, the land… everything that you know about the environment, we are just abusing it. We need to do something about it. I’d like to do something even from our church too. You know, it is difficult to do it at church because at home you’re always there so you can be conscious of it and you can separate all that. But in church you come once a week and then doing all that is difficult. But if you automatically assume that somebody will do it, it will never be done. It’s hard. So if you chip in a little bit more of your time taking care of the garbage and all that, then we can do it together. And I hope that someday we can do this environmental stuff at our church. Once, we wanted to get rid of styrofoam cups. So that’s why we actually bought the dishwasher, a heavy duty industrial dishwasher in the kitchen. We and everybody brought mugs and all that. So I hope that we can do something to help out with the environment.
But it’s not only the environment that is abused. People are abused. Especially people who don’t have power, privilege and resources. The poor people, people of different colors, different opinions. They have been abused and mistreated badly. Maybe read the book by Ta-Nehisi, ‘Between The World And Me’. He really, clearly speaks out about how black people are being treated in the United States. That’s that right. Simply not right. Doing justice is doing what is right. You don’t treat people like that. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they may have. What morality, what orientation, whatever that is, you don’t treat people that way. That is not the right thing to do.
Jesus was not so harsh on personal moral failure, but he was very, very strong and harsh on those who abused people because they didn’t have power. We have to be very conscious of justice all the time. You always have to be conscious of people who are treated unfairly. Poor people, powerless people, and we should stand up for them. Living with a sense of justice is what a good life is all about. And we should use our resources to help out with injustice going on around us. Last Friday at the Bible study, I asked them, “What is the difference between abundance from God and abundance that you have created, you have made?” What is the difference between abundance that is given from God and abundance you yourself made? The difference is, abundance from God creates gratitude and thankfulness because it’s a free gift, and you are thankful for that, but also at the same time, not only that, it’s easy to share with others. Abundance you created yourself is hard to share, but people who believe that their abundance is from God, then they share their resources with others. We have to fight for justice. Always be conscious. Whether at work, school, or with your family.
That’s why I was very interested in feminism for awhile because women’s rights have been abused and treated badly. That’s why I was, for a while, very interested in liberation theology, because in South America, the people have been treated so badly. The poor people. This is a part of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus always stood up for those who are weak, vulnerable and powerless.
The second pillar is to love kindness. To love kindness is to live with mercy, and then the best word that came to me comes to me is compassion. I told you the word compassion is a combination of two words, come and passion. Come is together, passion is suffering. So life that suffers with those who suffer. That’s a good life. We cannot take other people’s suffering casually. When we hear other people’s suffering, we cannot just here from one ear and then let it go out from the other ear. We cannot let it happen that way.
Sometimes I go to a Canadian church, and I speak about some stories of suffering, it is very different. When they hear it, I can feel that they feel it. They feel the suffering in the story that I share with them. That’s empathy. Compassion is empathy. When people suffer around you, we gotta suffer with them. You cannot just look at it like, “Okay, too bad.” Sympathy is different from compassion. That’s why the last two weeks, we have collected offering for Alberta. It’s not much, but at least we got to do something about it. We got to share resources to alleviate that suffering from people. The suffering of the people is real, and we have to do our best to alleviate that suffering. It doesn’t matter what it is. That’s a human thing to do. That’s a right thing to do.
Thirdly, walk humbly with God. Don’t think that you can change anything on your own. Don’t think that you can change the world on your own. We humbly ask God for help. This is to walk humbly with God. We’ll do our best to the justice and show our compassion, but ultimately it is God who truly changes the world, so we’ll never be discouraged. We’ll try our best, but we’ll never be discouraged. Humility is the same as trusting in God. From that trust, true happiness comes.
Working hard, eating healthy food, exercising regularly, and doing things that you enjoy are external things and it is about you and it’s important. But living with a sense of justice, living a life of compassion and living humbly trusting in God are internal things, and is all about others and about the world we live in. We need both, but what’s lacking in you? What is lacking in the modern world? I think the latter is lacking.
Your Good Life & Ours
Half of a good life is not a good life. A good life is complete. It’s not half of it. Half of a good life is not a good life. We can only have a good life together, not alone. You can never be happy, you can never have a good life alone on your own. We can only be happy with others, together. Being happy when others are suffering is not a good life. It’s not a good life.
People like Dr. Farmer, I told you about the book, ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains”, he gets about $100,000 a year teaching at Harvard medical school. He doesn’t even know where that money goes to. He lives in a church basement and he goes out and just does the work. What a wonderful example. He said, “Being happy when others are suffering is not good a life. In the process of helping those who are suffering, you become happy and you find good life. What Micah said was a summary of the preaching of all the prophets. That’s what all the prophets say. Simply is summarizing into these three; do justice, live with compassion, and walk humbly with God. Those three things are a summary of the prophets message, and the summary of your life and our life.
May God bless you with a good life. Let us sing together.
This time, let us have a moment of silence and let us pray. What is lacking in my life? We all need to live a good life and we deserve a good life, but what is lacking within me? Let us pray so that God may help us build our life all around in a healthy way, in a balanced way. So let us pray that, “God give me the life that is balanced in all these things so that we may truly enjoy a good life.”