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Monday, August 03, 2015

What is Fair?

The complaint we hear quite often is "God is not fair." It can be applied in a variety of ways. He's not fair because there is evil in the world. He's not fair because the innocent native in Africa never heard of Christ and is damned because of it. He's not fair because He doesn't answer my prayers the way I want. Lots of ways. The same underlying premise. But it makes me wonder, what is fair?

The dictionary defines "fair" as "beauty" (as in "the lady fair"). Oh, wait, wrong "fair". How about "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice". Yes, that's more like it. Or something like "done properly under the rules". That's kind of what's in view here. Not a "fair wind" or "fair health" or "fair skies" or even "a county fair". We're looking at justice and equality.

So what is fair? What is God being accused of? Well, clearly, God is being accused of giving unequal treatment. He's accused of not operating under the rules. "God is not fair!" How is it fair ("equal treatment") to save some and not others? How is it fair to punish some and not others? (Oh, wait, I don't think they really ask that.) Still, the whole "Why me?" question. "Because, after all, I don't deserve this." And that makes it not fair -- unjust, according to the rules. Or "Why is He treating them better than He is treating me?" Because "fair" requires "equal treatment". Everyone knows that.

I'm really wondering if anyone actually believes that. Oh, I'm pretty sure they do, but to its logical conclusion? If it is true that "fair" is defined as "equality", then we would by definition want to eliminate competition, capitalism, individuality, even success. The requirement would be "the lowest common denominator" and anything else would be ... unfair. Oh, and, of course, there would be no salvation. Everyone would have to get the death their sin earned them (Rom 6:23). Are you sure that's the fair you want? Or is it "'Fair' as I mean it"? Which isn't ... fair.

So, if "fair" is defined as "following my sense of fair", God is not "fair". If "fair" is defined as "all people treated the same", then God is not "fair". If "fair" means "everyone gets what they deserve", God is not "fair". And in all these cases I am exceedingly glad. I couldn't stand a "fair" God who follows your rules (and would, then, not be God) or a "fair" God who treated everyone the same or gave everyone "what they deserve" (and would, then, require damnation of everyone). But if "fair" means "free from dishonesty or injustice", God is fair. If "fair" means "done properly according to the rules" (where "the rules" are defined by the Rule Giver), God is exceedingly fair. As Abraham asked, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Gen 18:25). Always. So apparently it is our concept of "fair" that needs to be shifted. And I would prefer "mercy" to "fair" in my case any day.

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