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What Christians Should Know (#WCSK): Why God is Not Fair

Updated on June 22, 2016
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Dr. Sadaphal proclaims intelligent faith that provides clarity and meaningful answers to those who seek maturity in Christ. #WCSK

The justice of God vs. the non-justice of God

In his 1997 book, What is Reformed Theology?, theologian R.C. Sproul writes the following:

"The concept of justice incorporates all that is just. The concept of non-justice includes everything outside the concept of justice: injustice, which violates justice and is evil; and mercy, which does not violate justice and is not evil. God gives his mercy (non-justice) to some and leaves the rest to his justice. No one is treated with injustice. No one can charge that there is unrighteousness in God."

Fairness is very just. It is fair, for example, to require that a thief return stolen property to its rightful owner. When a guilty person gets a long sentence for a horrible crime we tend to say, "justice has been served." Justice also exists independently of personal preference and is quite logical and devoid of emotion. So when a person holds tightly to the idea of "an eye for an eye," this indeed may not feel right in some cases, but it is just. it When a punishment fits the crime, justice appears to be fair. Justice does not appear to be fair, however, when the punishment does not match the crime.

When God doesn't appear to be fair

So, when some people think about God or hear about God, at times He doesn't appear to be fair because His punishments far outweigh the crimes. For example, if we look at the ultimate punishment of eternal hell, enmity between people (e.g., war or interpersonal strife), or misfortune (e.g., a tornado or cancer), all of these things appear unfair when they injure seemingly innocent people.This appearance drives a wedge between us "down here" and God somewhere "up there."

Yet, when we take a step back and consider what is it that really separates us from God, we begin to appreciate the wholly detestable nature of the actual crime: sin. Sin corrupts our relationship with God and also has detrimental effects on our relationship with others and our physical world. Sin is what ended a life of paradise (full of harmony and without scarcity or want) in the Garden of Eden. Sin is what tarnished an existence where bad things never happened. And sadly, because sin is so pervasive, it has been inherited by all of humanity since the Garden of Eden. From the start, God always intended for creation (us and our world) to be good and there to be perfect harmony between creation and the Creator. However, because God is holy and perfectly just, He is incapable of saying "Nevermind" to sin. He is also incapable of leaving the creation that He loves alone, so He took the form of a human being (Jesus) to execute a recuse mission for humanity. God did this because sin is epic. Sin is so epic that is turned Lucifer into the devil.

God's intent and the reality of sin

Lucifer by design was a good creation that The Lord had made. Sin is what turned this angel into the Deceiver and the father of lies. What do you get if you take sin away from the devil? An angel that worships God. Sin is so bad that it in itself is what makes hell really hell. Anselm of Canterbury famously said that if he had the choice of entering hell clean and innocent or entering into heaven with the stain of one sin, he would gladly leap into hell. Hell is not what separates a person from God: sin is.

Sin is so bad that it demands nothing short of the justice of God, and His justice says that the penalty for sin is death. All of the tragedy in this world—whether it takes the form of suffering, grief, dehumanization, violence, or pain—has a root cause in sin. If at once sin were wiped out from the face of the earth, then all evil would immediately cease. And the reason sin cannot be immediately wiped out is rooted in the justice of God; that is, because a crime has been committed, a penalty must be paid. If God were not just, then God wouldn’t be God. He would be a pushover who stands for nothing. And that, ironically, wouldn’t be fair.

The good news is that the story does not end in the Garden of Eden.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People (Feb 2016)

Injustice stands for nothing

Before the devil was the devil, he was an angel created by God to worship. So even when it comes to Lucifer, God always intended for his creation to be good. So what happened? Sin happened. Sin is what transformed a God-worshiping angel into the prince of darkness. If you removed all the sin from the devil's permanent record, what you're left with is an angel. Even more, sin is a crime so catastrophically bad that it is what makes hell really hell. More than one thousand years ago, Anselm of Canterbury said that if given the choice of entering hell without sin or entering into heaven with the stain of one sin, he would gladly leap into hell. Hell does not separate a person from God: sin does.

Sin a crime. God is just. The crime of sin demands punishment, and because the crime is so heinous, the penalty is death. Sin is so scandalous that it deceptively manifests in different forms—such as violence, hatred, dehumanization, and bigotry—tricking people into thinking it doesn't really exist. If sin were immediately eradicated from the face of the planet, evil would immediately stop. So why doesn't God do just that and eradicate it? Great question. Because God is just and a crime requires a penalty to be paid. Because an unjust God wouldn't be God, and an unjust god would stand for nothing. Ironically, that wouldn’t be fair.

The good news is that the story of justice doesn't stop there.

Grace: the marvelous beauty of God's non-justice

Some of the best news revealed to us in the Bible is that the non-justice of God is totally unfair. Non-justice lies outside the realm of justice and does not violate God's character. Within the realm of non-justice exists grace, or the unmerited favor that God grants to us all. It is only by the grace of God that we may struggle and fall, but ultimately, we endure. In the end, we shall all stand before The Lord and present our case before the judge. God's justice will look at all of our sin and persuade a conviction. God's non-just grace will then gaze upon the blood-stained Cross and then compel God to say, “Not guilty!”

The non-justice of God looks at what Jesus already did for us and induces God to say, “I will remember your sins no more.” The non-justice of God animates one of the most beautiful words in the entire Hebrew Bible: hesed, which means steadfast love, mercy, or good favor. The non-justice of God is what motivated Him to Incarnate as Jesus, who would be the one that satisfied the demands of God's justice on the Cross. The non-justice of God entices us to realize that if we cling to unwavering fairness at all costs, there would be no space for Christ.

So indeed, what Christians should know is that God is wholly unfair, and this is a reason to praise The Lord.

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