06-21-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
God is…just and fair
How many of you have ever said, “That’s not fair!” How many of you have ever said, “Life isn’t fair!”
There is something within each one of us—some sort of a moral compass that points to what is right and fair and just. And unless that moral compass gets broken, we know instinctively when something isn’t fair.
C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity): “Everyone has heard people quarrelling. …I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?” — “That’s my seat, I was there first” — “Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm” — “Why should you shove in first?” — “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine” — “Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.
“Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about.” (p 17)
So where do we get our sense of fairness? Why do we instinctively recognize some moral standard? Why do we get upset—or even outraged—when that standard is violated?
I’ll tell you where that sense of justice comes from. It comes from God.
God hard-wired humanity with an inner sense of what is right and what is wrong, with what is fair and what is unfair. God created this world to be a just and righteous place.
And yet, the world is full of injustice—so many things that are not fair; so many things that are evil. We want God to maintain a balance between right and wrong. We want him to keep things fair.
So when things don’t work out right and life is unfair, we complain.
Maybe we complain to God. Maybe we complain about God.
Remember the story of Job, the rich man living at the top end of society, who in an instant lost all his wealth and prestige and influence and even his family? Job said:
My complaint is legitimate. God has no right to treat me like this—it isn’t fair! If I knew where on earth to find him, I’d go straight to him. I’d lay my case before him face-to-face, give him all my arguments firsthand. I’d find out exactly what he’s thinking, discover what’s going on in his head. (Job 23:2-5, MSG)
The prophet, Habakkuk complained:
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Hab 1:2-3)
In Psalms, the sons of Korah said:
Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go on suffering from the cruelty of my enemies?” (Ps 42:9, GNT)
We all know when something isn’t right. It’s built into the fabric of our souls. We all know when something isn’t fair.
Is it fair that political elections often go to candidate with the most money?
The 2016 presidential election could cost as much as $5 billion, according to [some] who are already predicting it will more than double the 2012 campaign’s price tag. Potential [GOP] candidates [Romney, Bush, Christie] are throwing political elbows at each other to secure donors’ money. [But it’s not just Republicans… In private conversations, allies to [Hillary Clinton] are predicting that the campaign totals on their end alone might surpass $1.5 billion and go as high as $2 billion.] From The Hill]
So negative ads can have more sway than constructive ideas? Is that fair?
Or consider nature. Charles Darwin taught that the world runs on a simple premise—the survival of the fittest. But is that really fair? That only the strongest and the smartest should survive? Apparently not, because humans will go to incredible extremes to save creatures in danger—like the whales who got themselves trapped in the arctic ice a number of years ago. A Skycrane heavy-lift helicopter was brought in to punch holes in the ice with a 5-ton hammer. Then a barge was brought in to break through the ice. Then U.S. State Department requested help from the Soviet Union, and they sent in two icebreaker ships. By now there was a swarm of journalists on the ice, so when the whales started out the newly opened path in the ice, the media crowd spooked them and they turned back. (It’s not the first time the press has scared someone.) In all, over $1 million was spent over three weeks trying to overturn Darwin’s axiom. One whale died anyway, and no one knows for sure what happened to the other two.
But let’s get serious.
Is it fair that some are born in the U.S. and others are born in Haiti or South Sudan? Is it fair that a women in America can drive a UPS truck but women in Saudi Arabia are arrested for driving a car? Is it fair that some get sick while others stay healthy? Is it fair that some die young while others live longer than they want, frail and decrepit?
It’s questions like these that cause some people—maybe some of you—to wonder: Is God fair? Where is the justice of God?
This last week nine people were killed in Charleston, SC. You heard the news. They were in church, attending a Bible study. It was an act of evil. It was not fair to them, or their families, or to their church. In offering condolences, President Obama borrowed words from Martin Luther King, Jr. (who borrowed them from an abolitionist in the 1800s): “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Whenever we encounter evil and injustice in this world, we look to God to make things right. If not complete justice, then at least a step. If not now, then someday. We want the arc to bend toward justice. And yet, so many wonder: “Is God really fair? Is he just?”
Andy Stanley, well-known pastor from Georgia, writes about the problems in a world broken by sin: “Christianity is the fairest possible system in a world that is irreversibly unfair.” (How Good Is Good Enough? p 77)
He goes on to say that when we complain that something is unfair, usually it’s because we have felt the sting of injustice ourselves. In other words, it’s easier to use the fairness card when we feel like we are the victim. (80)
If you’re the parent of more than one child, you know this by experience. Have you ever had a kid complain, “No fair! You gave me a bigger piece!” Have any of your kids said, “No fair! I got more presents than anyone else!” (81)
If you have, let me tell you: your kid is not normal. Normal human nature complains about injustice that comes our direction. It’s easier to see when something is unfair for us—when we suffer—than when the injustice is directed at someone else.
But God—who is ultimately just and fair—calls us to be people who will stand for what is right. To defend those who cannot speak for themselves. To fight for justice in the face of injustice.
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NASB)
God calls us to do justice and love kindness because God himself is ultimately just and fair.
But there was one time when God went beyond justice—and he introduced mercy.
Andy Stanley says that it seems Christianity itself isn’t really fair. “If you take the Bible seriously,” he writes, “the last thing you would want is for God to be fair.” (83)
What’s he talking about? Well, he’s talking about sin—your sin, my sin.
God made a perfect world, a fair and just world. And he put human beings into this perfect place. And everything went well until sin sneaked in and ruined the perfect garden. That was the day fairness died.
Stanley says, “From that day forward, men, women, and children have treated one another unfairly.” (84)
In other words, ever since that day, people have suffered because of something Adam and Eve did! Their choices created problems for every generation since.
And the bad decisions and poor choices of some people continue to bring unfair consequences to others who did not deserve them.
If you’re a single mom, trying to make ends meet on a limited budget because your ex- took off to chase after his own interests—that’s not fair. Somebody else made a choice that affects you.
If you’ve struggled to find some emotional peace because you were scarred from being born into an abusive home—that’s not fair. Somebody else made a choice that affects you.
If someone you love was injured or killed by a drunk driver—that’s not fair. Somebody else made a choice that affects you.
The list goes on and on. You can probably think of things you’ve suffered unfairly as a result of someone else’s choices.
And, if you think about it, you might recall some things you’ve done that have hurt others.
But it’s not just innocent people who suffer and pay the price for things that are not fair or just.
God also suffered the day fairness died. And in order to rescue us from the mess sin made of this world, he had to suffer more. He had to do something that was unfair—
He sent his Son to pay the price for sins that he did not do. Because God is a just and holy God, his justice demanded that the penalty for sin had to be paid.
A just God could not sweep sin under the rug. He could not just ignore it. That would have upset the balance of all that is fair—to distinguish right from wrong. To ignore sin would have been unjust.
But God could not ignore sin because he is just. In fact, he is the definition of justice. There is no standard outside of God, which he must measure up to. No! He is the standard.
But while he is just, he is also loving! And as a loving God, he could satisfy justice by paying the penalty for sin himself. It was mercy for us, but it was unfair to him. He suffered for sins that we committed. He sent his Son to the cross to carry the weight of sin’s penalty, which we deserved. The Bible says:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
Andy Stanley: “Christianity teaches that when man sinned, God opted for forgiveness rather than fairness. He opted for grace and mercy rather than justice.” (89)
He tells about the time when his kids were very young, and he bought the nicest car he had ever owned— a used Infiniti in mint condition. He babied that car because he wanted to keep it in mint condition. But then one Saturday morning as he took out the trash, he noticed something on the hood of the car. He walked over for a closer look, and to his utter dismay, he discovered that someone had scratched a letter “A” into the paint—along with attempts at several other letters.
He was furious! He called his two boys out to the car and demanded to know who had scratched it up. Silence. Finally, 5-year-old Garrett, broke: “Allie did it,” he said. Allie was Andy’s youngest child and his only daughter—a whopping 3½ years old at the time. She was summoned to the scene of the crime. “Did you do that?” asked the judge. And she looked up sheepishly and said, “Yes sir, Daddy.” (They say “yes sir” and “yes maam” in the south.)
So Andy Stanley says, “What was I going to do? There was no way in the world for me to explain…the significance of what she had done and what it was going to cost me in dollars, time, and hassle to get it fixed. There was no point in telling her that now I was going to have to take the car to the shop, rent a car, and pay for the rental car as well as the repair. She had no context for understanding any of that.”
He continued: “It would have been equally absurd to demand that Allie pay for the damage. Fair, maybe, but unrealistic. What does a two or three hundred dollars mean to a three-year-old? The numbers wouldn’t even register. And where would she get the money?
“So what do you do in that kind of situation? Sever the relationship? Demand payment? Rant and rave? Of course not. I did the only thing I could do for someone I loved as much as I loved her. I knelt down and said, ‘Allie, please don’t do that anymore.’
“She said, ‘Yes sir, Daddy.’ Then she hugged me and went back inside.”
He paid for the damage she had caused. He wasn’t concerned about being fair. The damage had to be fixed, but love and grace and mercy caused him to pay for what she couldn’t pay for.
Because God is just, the damage of sin must be paid. But because of love, God paid for all the evil and injustice and wrong in this world—everything unfair—he paid for it all himself.
An old song put it like this: He paid a debt he did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
It wasn’t fair—but justice was done…and grace was given.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)