“Because I have sinned against him, I must endure the Lord’s fury until he champions my cause and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see his salvation.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you experienced the law of cause and effect? I suspect you have. You do one thing and something else happens. Cause. Effect. Sometimes this law works itself out quickly and obviously. Other times, though, the connection from one to the other is much more difficult to make. This is often because the path from a cause to its effect takes much longer to reveal itself. The challenge here is that when sin is a cause and its effect is delayed, we begin to think that it has no effect. But as Micah warns here, its effect will come.
We often think about justice in terms of what other people deserve. We often see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. Now, this isn’t universally true. Some people struggle mightily with a guilt complex wherein they feel they deserve every bad thing that happens to them because of something they’ve done in the past. For most of us, though, we see others as worse than ourselves.
This is a natural defense against facing the ugliness of what is going on inside of us. The kick is, if we do this too much, we can overlook the consequences of our own sins. Those people deserve what they get. We’re not doing anything nearly that bad. We deserve good things.
In Micah’s day, Israel as a nation was sinning on a grand scale and needed a movement of national repentance. Things were bad. The prophets God sent warned them about it, but they didn’t listen very well. As a nation, they were ripe for judgment. The effect of their sin was going to come to bear and the connection was going to be obvious.
When thinking about sin on a national scale, though, it is important to keep something in mind so that we don’t miss important effects. Where there is systemic sin in a culture, it doesn’t exist as some kind of an unconnected mystery. Systemic sin never exists as its own thing. Rather it is the result of a whole lot of individual sins.
So then, before you think to pass judgment on some culture, keep this truth in mind. Before you criticize your own culture for its sinfulness, ask this important question: Do you have ongoing sin in your life?
Ah, but our sins are small. Surely they aren’t the cause of system-wide injustices. It’s the big sins that cause that. But that’s the thing about so-called small sins. When it comes to “small” sins, we often don’t experience any kind of immediate consequences. We may not seem to experience consequences at all.
Let’s say you tell the proverbial little white lie to avoid hurting the feelings of your friend. Lying is a sin, isn’t it? But there is no apparent consequence for this. It must not be a big deal. Or perhaps you are jealous of a coworker. Jealousy is a regularly-condemned sin in the Scriptures. But when we keep it in our heart and don’t act on it, we very well may not see any direct effect of it. The great temptation is to begin to think that these sins don’t really matter. They don’t contribute anything to the overall sinfulness of a culture. It’s not like we’re murdering anyone.
The thing about “small” sins, though, is that while they may not seem to have a big impact, they are nonetheless capable of separating us from God. That means that although they may seem small to us, they are a big deal. Whether they have any impact on the culture and people around us or not, if they separate us from God, they are sowing seeds of destruction in our lives. When those take root and begin to grow, they tend to not stay within their intended boundaries.
Let’s ask the question again, then: Do you have ongoing sin in your life? Whether you think it is big or small, it is introducing a point of separation between you and God. You need to deal with that. Separation from God is separation from life, and it’s hard to live when you’re not connected to a source of life.
There is and will always be an effect to the cause that is our sin. Micah acknowledges as much here. Because he sinned, he knew he had judgment coming. He was going to face judgment until God’s justice was satisfied and He granted him the grace of salvation.
That’s all the hard news. The good news is that, though we serve a God who is just, He is also a God of grace. What’s more we serve a God of grace who moved to have His justice satisfied not by our punishment, but by the death of His Son. He took the effect of our cause. And that effect was death. For this gift, we owe Him our lives. Literally. If your life doesn’t belong to Jesus, what are you waiting for? He died so that you could live. Stop whatever sin you are trying to overlook and follow Him into the life He has made available to us.