So I came to the conclusion this week that I might just think God is unfair.
Last night, a friend presented me with the concept that God is just... and depending on which translation you are looking at, the Bible reveals God as just (NKJV) and righteous (NIV). But I'd like to suggest that being just doesn't make it a given that God is fair.
The very essence of God is justice. Revelation tells us that 'true and just are your judgements' when referring to the 'Lord God Almighty' (Revelation chapter 16, verse 7). Jesus dying on the cross as atonement for our personal sins exemplified the concept of God's justice. The world no longer got what it deserved. We no longer needed to receive true justice because justice had been served via Jesus Christ.
However, this all seems a pretty bad deal for Jesus; really quite unfair by all accounts. Not only was he crucified on a cross and suffered unimaginable torture, he was also raised in poverty, was deserted by his friends, a target for Satan's constant temptation and then, to top it all off, he died young.
When God looked at his son's designated lot, it was unlikely he was thinking how he could divvy up a fair life path for Jesus. We know Jesus still experienced emotions and was flesh and bloodâthe amount of challenging circumstances he was to face won't have passed Jesus by, I'm sure. Yet the unfairness had to happen; 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 18 says, 'For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.'
Fair vs just
What if God's plan never included being fair? Subconsciously I liked to imagine God sitting up in heaven with a wooden abacus, squarely dividing out all his 'good gifts' to his children (with a little bit of circumstantial tragedy being thrown in at a lesser measure, which unfortunately is beyond his control). Just like I might fairly divide out my favourite block of chocolate, God would break off a bit of his goodness in nice uniform chocolate chunks.
I liked to think God was fair in this division of blessingâit just so happened that it was the content of the blessing that came down to chance, i.e. you could be the unfortunate one to get the block of chocolate with a high-raisin content â or you'd be blessed to get the trophy piece with no raisins. That was just the luck of the draw.
To me, suffering and personal troubles worked like thisâGod equally divided up all the good stuff and it was unfortunate if we had the extremely raisiny square. God didn't really mean to buy the raisin chocolate anyway, and he was just trying to serve up what was a bad bunch of blessings as well as he could.
And we long for God to be fairâwe can't believe in a God who couldn't be fair (and subscribe to our individual interpretation of fairness). When we say we won't believe in God, because the type of God we would want to believe in wouldn't allow people to suffer, could there be another reason we won't believe?
What if the concept stopping us from believing in God is the idea he should be fair? And then we find him not to be. And we feel our personal circumstances have been far from fair.
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?" â C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We didn't get married. We didn't have children. Someone close to us got ill. We got ill. We suffered more loss than anyone we knew. Our circumstances weren't fair. It was all meant to work out far better than it did.
If your response is one of irritation at what you've just read, I wouldn't blame you. To us, our personal circumstances are real and painful. Each one of us will suffer during our lifetimeâand sometimes a prayer will directly be answered and alleviate the pain, whereas there will be sometimes where no change happened, where we wonder if it was ever worth reaching out to God.
Although God gives us a free will to choose right from wrong, and good from badâpre-chosen for us at the beginning of time by Adam and EveâGod still pours out his favour on us.
My amazing Grandfather endeavoured to make fair choices with all his children and grandchildren. He didn't want any of them to feel favoured over and above the others. Giving everyone the same interest, love, things; it was fair and square. Yet it makes me wonder what it would be like for God to respond in the same level way to each of us. Would having one standard line of response, of giving, because of adhering to being fair,remove anypersonal response to us? He could give us a level spoon full of sugar each and be done with it.
Instead, God is totally unfair with his favour because he responds in a personal way to each of our needs and requests, in a totally unjustified way that we don't deserve. When something is not going my way, or when all I can do is just sink to my knees and ask God for helpâand my prayer is answered, I know I am receiving unmerited favour.
It's amazingly unfair. So even though the things around me and in my life don't feel fair, I'm so grateful for the ultimate unfair circumstances that Jesus experienced, which mean I can receive God's undeserved favour.
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html