In 3 days, Chris and I along with 19 other individuals will be on our way to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We have been looking forward to this trip for many months and as the time of our departure draws closer I find myself wondering how this is going to change me. This week I have been doing some additional reading and studying on the cultural dos and don’ts, the dress codes, weather, religions and people groups. In addition, this evening, I watched a documentary on-line entitled Enemies of the People. It tells the story of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and the Killing Fields where nearly 2 million people were slaughtered from 1975 – 1979.
When you watch something like this and hear the stories of individuals who found themselves doing the unimaginable, killing people daily because they were ordered to do so, it is hard to imagine how this country can recover. It seems that everyone in Cambodia today must have either been involved in this genocide or been impacted by it and I am not sure that one has an easier recovery than the other. With so many things left unexplained and questions gone unanswered, rebuilding seems insurmountable.
There is a point in the film where one of the men who performed these killings, which included men, women, and children, shares how his insides are constantly spinning with the images of what he has done. His eyes look like open wounds. He talks about the knowledge that families may come to avenge their relatives by killing him. In addition, he shares his fears of what will happen after he dies, based on his Buddhist beliefs. He says, “I don’t know what I am going to be reborn into. How many holes of Hell must I go through? I feel desperate but I don’t know what to do.” He adds, “I am desolate.”
As I watched this, my heart ached. Justice, so close to the heart of God, is a necessity. There is no excuse and no escaping the consequences of what this man had done. But, as a follower of Christ, listening to this man’s utter hopelessness, the urgency of God’s mission struck me. I longed to share with him the story of a God who loves and demands justice but also loves people so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son to pay the penalty for all this man had done. There is a message of hope and redemption in Jesus, the good news.
I was recently talking with a dear friend about the scripture Micah 6:8, “He Has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” She has a huge heart for justice, specifically related to the problem of sex trafficking of young girls and boys. She also has a heart for the pimps and johns who run the brothels trafficking these children, which is not something you hear everyday. I think that in addition to direction on to how we are to treat the oppressed, there is an answer in this verse on how we are to treat the oppressors.
In Micah 6:8, God gives us the following three charges: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. The do justice piece has certainly been a focus for me this year. I have been learning how to actively be busy doing justice for those that are in need. Likewise, I have been convicted about walking humbly and really discovering what this should look like, continually asking God to check me in this area. But what about love mercy? Why does this charge immediately follow do justice?
The Hebrew word used in the verse, translated as mercy, is chesed. This word is typically translated as loving-kindness and it relates to a covenant relationship, such as between God and us. It can also be translated as mercy because God’s demonstration of loving-kindness to us is often in showing mercy, as we do not always hold up our commitment. Let me also share the first definition of mercy in Webster’s dictionary: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment.
As I have been studying this, I felt that God was showing me that loving mercy, kindness and forgiveness is so important for us to show to others as He has shown it to us in our sin. As we move forward doing justice, we are going to encounter some very different things, mainly the individuals that sit on the side of the oppressor. There is so much in the Bible on forgiveness and God’s mercy to us, but this is one of the most difficult commands for us to follow - offering mercy to those who have hurt us.
One of my favorite passages is found in 2 Corinthians 5 – the Ministry of Reconciliation. Verse 19 says, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (NLT) Going into this Cambodia trip, I am so motivated to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to share the good news with those who have never heard it. What a privilege we have that God chooses to use us to deliver his message of reconciliation.
I can’t wait to share updates when we are back…stay tuned!