Years ago, near President’s Day, some of the kids in our church’s Childhood Development Center made newsprint posters which bore the heading, “If I were president, I would. . . .”
With the help of their teachers, the children imagined what they would do if they held the highest office in the land. Here’s what two of them said and their teachers wrote down:
If I were president, I would run and say to the dinosaur, “I know where your babies are.” The daddy dinosaur would be happy to see them again. They ran away from him when he wasn’t looking and got in a long line to find food.
If I were president, I would make laws. I would tell children at school to wash their hands six times. I would get poor kids food if they didn’t have any food. If it was cold weather, I would get them warm clothes. If it was warm I would get them cold clothes.
I was impressed that these children knew what many of us are prone to forget: power and privilege are given to us so that we may serve.
These children would use their power to bring families—dinosaur families!—together. They would create conditions in which people feel safe. They would feed the hungry and clothe the needy.
One of Israel’s powerful prophet, Micah, asked and answered one of life’s crucial questions: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”
Mercy moves in compassion toward those who suffer; justice drives us to seek change in the conditions which cause suffering. Mercy feeds the hungry, and justice works for an end to hunger. Mercy shelters the homeless; justice turns them into homeowners. Mercy prays for the soldier and the civilian in harm’s way during the tragedy of war; justice pursues the “things which make for peace”; it longs and labors for the day when “the nations will learn war no more.”
“Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God,” which means, at the very least, to recognize that we are not God. Our knowledge is limited. We are not qualified to judge the hearts and motives of other people.
Our power is limited. Sometimes, like the Apostle Paul, we cannot do the good we intend to do and cannot keep from doing the evil we intend to avoid.
We are flawed and fallible; we can be wrong, even after our most careful and thoughtful deliberations.
We are not God; instead we depend on God the way we depend on the air we breathe. Jesus described authentic humility in the first of his beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit—those who acknowledge their need for God—for theirs is their kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Micah, Jesus, and the children call and lead us to a better world, a world in which we long to live and for which we dream, pray, and work.