“It’s Not Fair” April 29 2016

How many times have we heard (or said) those words?  Some years ago I was talking with a pastor friend about fairness.  I told him that it would seem like God, being the all-knowing and all-powerful God He is, would always be a God of fairness, working things out so that no one could ever justifiably say they were treated unfairly.  My friend responded “well, actually God is not fair.”  After a long pause, and probably seeing my confounded look, my friend explained “That’s right.  God is unfair.  He is unfairly loving, unfairly compassionate, unfairly merciful, and unfairly forgiving.  Do you want me to go on?”  He had made the point.  

What would have been fair is for God to give us what we actually deserved.  Thankfully, for the believer in Christ, He has withheld what we deserve – the Scriptures call .this God’s mercy.  To quote an excerpt from Romans Chapter 3: “… as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one’” (verses 10-12).    Romans 3:23 and 6:23 succinctly summarize it as “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “for the wages of sin is death….” A prayer we would never want to pray is: “God, please give me what I deserve.”

This is radical thinking in today’s self-oriented world, but it is fundamental to the Christian faith and to our victorious living.  The reason we needed a Savior is because we could not rescue ourselves from our own sin. We see this in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works…” and in Romans 5:6, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  

In dealing with human responses, we have laws and rules to ensure just treatment of all the various situations that arise.  After all, God gave us the Ten Commandments and provided instruction even for how governments are to be respected, because they are there to bring order to society (see Romans Chapter 13 as one example).

Even in sports, we have rules to ensure that competition is fair.  Paul highlighted this in 2 Timothy 2:5 – “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”  Imagine if there were no umpires in baseball, no referees in basketball, and no rules of the game. Fairness would likely not prevail and chaos would ensue.

A referee does not have authority to give points when the basketball does not go through the hoop.  A baseball umpire does not have the authority to give extra outs to allow the losing team to catch up.  We understand that these are matters of earthly fairness.  But God goes beyond fairness to be generous with His forgiveness – unfairly generous - and He has done that with us.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

His desire is that we would be so grateful for this undeserved favor that the characteristics of godly love would just pour out of us in response:  patience instead of frustration, not taking into account wrongs that we may have suffered, giving preference to others even when we don’t like their choices, being content with what we have.  

As we know, governments, umpires, and referees are not perfect, and sometimes they are not even well-intentioned. Sometimes the rules break down.  Sometimes they are not enforced or are executed poorly, and sometimes things happen in life that do not appear to us to be fair, even upon appeal to the proper authorities.

As believers in Christ, we are in the privileged position of understanding, at least in part, the grace and mercy of God.  As we encounter earthly situations that appear to be unfair, this gives us a freedom and hope that the world cannot possibly offer.  We don’t have the pressures of trying to set everything straight or of making sure things in our life end up being balanced or fair.   Since we have already received infinitely more than we deserve, we are indeed blessed. This is true freedom, enabled and motivated by the grace and mercy of God.  We can rest, and relax, in that truth.

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Steve Smith