Monday, September 14, 2009

Is God Fair and Just?

I was just browsing through an online discussion entitled, "What attribute of God is hardest for you to grasp?" Attributes such as: Holy, Eternal, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Fair & Just.

After reading through 3 pages of responses, it seemed to me that most people struggled with God being fair and just. It's not hard to see why.

We see unfair things happen around us every day. We, ourselves, experience unfairness to various degrees. Loved ones die. We get cut off in traffic. Friends suddenly betray us. Dreams are shattered. And of course, the list goes on and on. Each of us instinctively recognizes when life is not fair. It's not a thought you think, it's a feeling you get - deep down in your gut - like a fire. That outrage burns and rises up inside, testifying to the brutal mismatch of right versus wrong. "This is not how it SHOULD be," we think. Why doesn't God change this circumstance to make it RIGHT?

Just to be clear, I recognize that occasionally my sense of unfairness is just a fancy excuse for selfishness. There are times I need to share the bathroom, to do the dishes even though I'm not in the mood, and to deal with not getting my own way all the time. But what I'm talking about here is not selfishness or a demand for God to grant my every wish. I'm talking about the truly WRONG things that happen to people - the things that make others cry out in unison on behalf of the offended party - the drunk driver whose car hits a family, a woman neglected in a nursing home and receiving no basic care for days, a man who feels it's his right to abuse his wife, an orphan dying of HIV/AIDS. Those are some things that unite us in wondering, "Is God really just and fair?"

Judging simply by our experience on earth, it's intelligent to say that life is not fair. From birth to death, if we saw nothing else, it would be easy to conclude that an all-powerful God is not bringing consistent justice to anyone - even his followers.

Granted, some people seem to get justice here and there, but that kind of justice is incomplete and not always what it seems. Just because a criminal gets prison time, a cheater gets caught, or a charitable person gets a promotion, that is not always God enacting his justice - no more than we could claim a natural disaster was a judgment on all of those wounded or killed. It's easy to look for patterns in life to try to eek out a semblance of justice wherever we can, but we are like children looking for flowers in a bed of weeds and settling for dandelions. It doesn't quench our desire for fairness because this world was never meant to do so.

My personal journey over the last 10 years has been fraught with what I would call unfair circumstances, not just for me, but for my loved ones as well. Seeing old photos or videos of better times (like I did today) just drives home the tremendous losses and victimization we have had to sustain, for seemingly no purpose, no obvious reason. I can ask why? why? why? about the losses and about the persecution, but the sense of unfairness lingers. I can push it deep down. I can cover it up with Christian language, saying it's all working for good. And I can tell people that God has grown me as a person because of it. And all those may be true things, but it does not change the inherent unfairness. I still cry out inside for God to make things RIGHT!

I think it's really freeing to call out unjust circumstances for what they are. It's sometimes scary to tell God that something is unjust or unfair - as if we are talking back to Him and being disrespectful. But God built my sense of right and wrong into my soul, and I firmly believe that I can humbly tell him how strongly I feel about injustice. Job sure did. The psalmists did. In fact, God will often agree with our laments and feel our same sense of anguish and pain. It's God himself who says, "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity." (Isaiah 61:8) So the logical question that comes to my mind next is:

If God loves justice so much, and he is all-powerful, then why don't we see him righting all the wrongs?

It comes down to the title of my blog. Qavah. Waiting.

Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
Psalm 37:34

All of Psalm 37 is about waiting on the Lord for justice and not losing hope when evil appears to succeed. The Bible is very clear that wickedness will appear to succeed for a while. But we who believe in God are to qavah for the LORD. The Strong's translation of the Hebrew word qavah is: "to wait" and adds, "This word stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude - a forward look with assurance."

To me, that idea of qavah in Psalm 37 is the key to seeing God as he is - completely just and fair. When I am unfairly hurt, God sees it. God knows it's wrong. God has a plan and is doing something about it on my behalf. I will someday see the results of his work. It's just that the waiting is often so hard to bear. Ultimately, I must wait for the day when God will right all of the wrongs, when justice will truly be like flowers in a garden, and when I will see the Lord face-to-face in THE place designed to quench our thirst for what is right - Heaven.

But why does the Lord delay justice? Is that harsh or unfair in itself? Why does he make us wait?

I can't claim to understand why God delays justice, but in a fallen world where humans have free will and can choose to sin, God has chosen not to reverse our decisions. Instead, he prepares a place for us that is not fallen or sick with sin - He will give us comfort, reward us, and heal us completely in Heaven. And as we endure here on earth, he has enabled us, through faith, to suffer trials without bitterness (in fact, even with joy) because we have the goal and purpose to share the message of Heaven with those who are searching for the same kind of fairness.

If you believe in Jesus, as I do, we can continue to run the race marked out for us - sharing with others about what Jesus has done and pressing on toward the finish line of reward, restoration, and recompense in Heaven.

If you don't yet believe, consider the mercy of God's patience as he continues to reach out to you the true lifeline of relationship with Jesus Christ and the priceless gift of complete forgiveness. Jesus willingly suffered incomprehensible injustice on earth so that we could have this gift. By simply believing, we are promised eternity in a world where all that was wrong will finally be made fully and completely right.

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