In the NIV translation, Micah 6:8 says: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
I suspect that in that passage, God was speaking to people in general and not only to actors. But as an actor, I’m struck by the phrase “To act justly.” God has given me the talent and the training to be an actor.
As an actor, I have the privileged opportunity to act; that is, to be a part of telling communal stories by embodying a character. But “act justly”? What does that mean for me? Is there a special meaning for those of us who are actors and who spend a significant part of our lives pretending to be someone else?
I think the key is in that word “pretending.” Merriam-Webster defines “pretend” as “to give a false appearance of being; to feign; to claim, represent, or assert falsely.” False is the opposite of true. If, as an actor, I am merely pretending, there is no element of truth.
But if by embodying a character in a communal story, I am bringing something true about myself to the story, then perhaps I am acting justly.
“Just” is defined as “having a basis in fact or reason; conforming to a standard of correctness.” I really like a definition that is claimed to be more archaic: “faithful to the original.” Perhaps to “act justly” in a play is to be faithful to the author’s conception of my character.
If I bring a truthful part of myself to inhabit that character, perhaps I justly identify with him. And even though the character may be a fictional creation of the playwright, because he is coming alive through a truthful part of me, he still represents something true about being a human being. Through the fiction, truth emerges. I feel more deeply connected to an aspect of humanity and, ideally, the same connection resonates for the audience.
Of course, the ultimate Author and Finisher of all is God. If acting justly in a play is to be faithful to the original author’s concept of the character, then acting justly in life is to be faithful to the ultimate Author’s original concept.