He has told you, O man, 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?
It occurred to me today that rarely in Scripture does God ever say to someone, "Do this one specific thing" or "Avoid doing this one specific thing." Even when Jesus told the rich young man to give everything he had to the poor and follow Him, Christ did not say "Give 20 percent of your stuff to these people" or "Make sure this poor person has been living a righteous life before giving money to him."
In Paul's letter to the Colossians, the church is told "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." A little further on, he writes, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you" and proceeds to list, not specific wrong acts, but the qualities and characteristics that bring us to wrong acts. For even the evil manage to avoid many wrong acts. But getting rid of (or putting to death) the characteristics that lead us to do bad things is much harder. It takes time and grace and a willingness to put on a "new self."
Paul does not leave us with bad to avoid, but also more characteristics to "put on," as one does clothing: "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." These are not good acts that replace bad ones, though it may look that way to us and to outsiders. Paul calls the church he is writing to "holy and beloved," and that is not just what we are, but what we are to be. We are to be separate in characteristics from the world and to live as people who are loved dearly by our creator.
And so we do not perform just acts: we do justice. Justice is our action. We do not perform kind acts: we love kindness. Kindness is what we spread and act as God's agents to create. And we do not act humble: we walk humbly, the loving Lord of the Universe beside us and within us. We step deliberately, getting to know the one whose power and light become the hallmark of all our movement.