God is Not Fair

God is not fair!

Is it not eternally penned? Stories of God commanding the killing of people, the annihilation of nations, the harsh and violent punishment for sin and evildoing? God is not fair to require the slaughtering of animals, the constant shedding of blood – bulls, goats, doves – Whatever did they do to deserve it? This God of the Old Testament, this God of the Jews: Not fair.

And how about here and now? All we need to do is look around or read the news. Some are rich and others poor. Some die old and some get killed. Some are free yet some are prey. Where is the fairness? “The poor will always be with us,” said Jesus. We live in this world that is saturated with tears and pain, conflicts and wars. And here we are: Stuck! We are all powerless to change the evil of this world. God, however, is mighty; yet he doesn’t change it either! For reasons that He only, fully understands, he chooses to permit suffering to continue. Unfair.

And then, there is me. Hard as I try to be happy, careless, and free, I am inevitably disappointed. I don’t want to cry from pain, but people I love, die; those I want, don’t want me back; and things I crave, I fail to attain. Unfair! It is all unfair!

God is unfair. But he is just. Justice is part of his name, his nature, his core. His justice never fails to punish the guilty. And so here we see the most unfair work of God. Out of all the unfairness in the entire history of our world, one act stands out as the most outrageous and outlandish. God planned this day with the utmost of care – every detail pre-arranged – From the beginning of time, whenever that was, however that worked, he willingly and purposefully lined up the events in human history to culminate in this heinous act of utter unfairness. He warned us. Isn’t it eternally penned for all to see? Abraham spoke of it, as did Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, and many other prophets with countless amounts of words, both spoken and written for the world to know.

God’s anger burned, for sin and evil were great. So his wrath against malice and his unceasing need for justice were finally poured out. God the Father assigned God the Son, in the form of man, to be the recipient of his wrath. He knew mankind could not handle such punishment, such anger, such justice. So he poured it out on one man; his only son; his most loved and cherished being. But Jesus was innocent! He had done no wrong to deserve this! But willingly he came, as a lamb to the slaughter. And willingly he died the death of a criminal. And willingly he became a curse, taking the form of sin, the meaning and guilt of sin, all upon himself. In one selfless act, God himself satisfied his wrath once and for all. It was so great and so vast that alas, his anger was forever spent! The guilt of mankind on one man. Unfair! Unfair!!

And one more thing is unfair: I cannot purchase, bargain, or even work for my salvation or right standing with him. My envy from last week, my lust from yesterday, and my pride from this morning, have all been paid for, fully justified, but not by me. Are there enough “good” things I can do to compensate for the “bad” ones? If that were true, I would end up losing every time! If it’s not arrogance, it’s laziness. If it’s not selfishness, it’s self-pity, but either way, any day of the week, and every hour of the day, my mind thinks an impure thought and my will moves me to a wicked act. And yet, here I stand, forgiven and clean! Unfair! To be washed and pure because the innocent one took the punishment on my behalf, and the anger of God, meant for me, fell on another. Unfair, unfair, unfair!!

God is love, and his love isn’t fair. It is unmerited, from start to finish. It all makes sense now! His commands, his requirements, his need for justice, they all point to Jesus and our immense need of him! Suffering, pain, tears, and death are part of this world, but this is no longer all there is. Happiness is not our greatest need. Fellowship with God is. Through Jesus, he opened a door and made a way for us to experience this. To all who call upon his name, he gives the right to be called children of the Most High! He died and rose again and is now preparing a place for us, for the rest of time. Is it not eternally penned for the world to know? In the most unfair way, he has demonstrated his love forever. Praise him, praise him, praise him!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

(Charles Wesley, 1738)

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With The Eye on The Finish Line

I’ve never been good at running. As a child, I was always last in my school’s races. As an adult, I do not have the stamina for it. But I love to watch runners (one of my favorite Olympic sports) and I imagine that being fast and strong would feel free and powerful.

Lately (I love summers when I have tons of time to read) I’ve been learning about runners, such as Glenn Cunningham and Norm Bright, whose lives shone forth dedication, passion, and discipline. They loved to run. Cunningham’s legs were burned as a child and he was not expected to walk, much less run or become the fastest long-distance runner in the world. Bright ran even after he became blind, and it’s told that in his 80’s, he would walk around his care center with his grandnephews, as he timed the walk on his stopwatch.

Paul, the apostle, defined life as a race. I may not understand what it feels to be physically fast, but I think I sort of get the concept of a race, if nothing else, because my life feels like one. I know I have left the starting line, and I am currently running. Sometimes I feel exhaustion, as if I can’t run any longer. Other times I feel energized and renewed, with fresh vision and stamina. And I know there is a finish line waiting for me. We all get there one way or another, sooner or later.

How will I run this race of mine? That is a question I need to answer constantly. Distractedly? Aimlessly? Self-relying? Or will I run it strongly and with macular vision? It is said that Cunningham’s favorite verse in the Bible was Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” This is my desire, to wait on the Lord and to continually sense the strength-renewing power that comes from abiding in HIM. Oh, I have known this power many times in my race. I have been lifted, dusted off, and energized plenty of times. It is not just wishful thinking. I know this power to be real and effective. Because as I run this race, in the power of God, He gets all the glory.

I do not know when my last day on earth will be. I do not know when I will reach my finishing line. Today, I pray for strength and vision for my next lap, and joy while I run with everything I’ve got. On that day, when my race is done, I will get everything my heart ever longed for, because when I meet Jesus face to face, He will be my everything. Ah, I can hardly contain my excitement and longing! When I cross that line, those who love me should throw a party and rejoice with me, for there is no greater reward than running the race, finishing well, and obtaining one’s reward.

 

Glenn Cunningham, 1933

Glenn Cunningham, 1933

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:13-14