What does God think of us? We might be tempted to answer, without giving much thought to the question, that, of course, He loves us, He understands that we are only human, and He forgives us. In a sense that answer would be correct, but it also overlooks a great deal. The fact of the matter is that there is a grave crisis in our relationship with our Creator, that this crisis was occasioned by our disobedience and rebellion, and that we are on a course that leads to eventual destruction.
You say, how can that be? Part of the problem is that we do not see ourselves as God sees us. We think that we are basically alright – decent, law-abiding citizens, minding our own business and causing no offense. If we can manage to forgive each other then why cannot God forgive us?
What God sees, however, is very different.
"The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
(Psalm 14:2,3; NKJV)
Why the difference in perception? The answer is that God measures by a different standard than we measure ourselves.
We tend to have a sociological morality: we judge ourselves by the standards of society. We look at each other, and if everyone else seems to be doing something then we feel comfortable doing it ourselves. And how does everyone else know what is right and what is wrong? It is usually something we absorb from our culture: we learn it from our parents, our teachers, the government and the mass media. Thus as long as we are trying to get along with others, we have little trouble convincing ourselves that we are decent, moral people.
Unfortunately we forget one little thing in our neat rationalization, and that is God. He is our Creator, and He is our Judge. So the real question is, what does He want?
"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God."
Here it will be seen that God expects something from us. We are ultimately accountable to Him for our actions. He is the One who determines what is "good." And what does He say is good? The text mentions three things.
First of all, we are to "do justly," or to "do justice" (NASV) as it might more literally be translated. We are to respect the rights of others, bound by the principles of equity. We are not to harm or mistreat others in any way, but are always to give them their due.
Secondly, we are "to love mercy." The word translated "mercy" is the Hebrew word "chesed," and it basically means kindness shown to others. We are to have a heart-felt regard for the well-being of our fellow human beings and be ready to help them whenever possible. It is nothing less than criminal to look upon the suffering of others with calloused indifference. Rather, we should readily respond to their need. And we should "love" to do this. It should be our joy and delight to help others.
Finally, we are to "walk humbly" with our God. To "walk" is a biblical metaphor for the way we conduct our affairs as we go through life. Here we are to "walk . . . with God," that is, we are to maintain communion with God and strive to live lives that are pleasing to Him. And we are to do this "humbly" – in the full recognition that He is the Creator and we are the creatures, that we are entirely dependent on Him and must live our lives in submission to His will.
God did not create us so that we would be lone rangers in the wild west of life – tough, self-sufficient, always looking out for "number one." He created us to have a relationship with Him and with our fellow human beings. That, in turn, requires a certain attitude on our part, an attitude of humility, justice, and compassion. And that is what God requires of us all.