Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fairness and the Cross-a meditation

"It's not fair!"If I have heard that charge come forth from one or another of my children's lips once, I have heard it 500 million times (I exaggerate only slightly!). Each time, I have had two standard responses: 1) "Life ain't fair, so buck up and get used to it" or if I'm feeling more patient, 2) Extended explanation of how such-and-such circumstance the offended party was involved in was favorable to him/her and thus this circumstance brings the universe into rough parity. I'm getting more inclined toward Option #1, because somehow, Option #2 never seems to quite satisfy, for no matter how eminently reasonable my explanation is, one's child never feels they have received justice.

I'm sure that every parent out there can empathize with my exasperation, trying to reconcile a child's sense of justice with a world that is fundamentally unfair. It's an impossible task, at least partly I think, because part of being made as humans in God's image is precisely the awareness of right and wrong, fair and not, and the deep sense that things in this world aren't the way they are supposed to be. Moreover, who among us hasn't similarly cried out "It's not fair!" about many more serious problems in our adult world? Thus, one of the lessons we try to impart to our children is precisely that truth, that this world ain't fair and you better tighten your chinstrap and get used to it, because that's life.

On the other hand, I think a certain "unfairness" is also at the very heart of the Gospel. It certainly isn't "fair" that God laid the sins of deeply sinful people on His only begotten Son, enabled those who believed in the Son to trade their sins for the Son's righteousness, and by the Spirit's power to be adopted as sons into God's own family. It isn't fair that Jesus was flogged and we were healed. It isn't fair that Jesus bled and we were cleansed. It isn't fair that He was crowned with thorns that God might reverse the curse that brought forth thorns. It isn't fair that the Innocent died in place of the guilty, or that the Creator died instead of the creature. It isn't fair that He cried out "I thirst!" so that none of us would have to cry "I thirst" from Hell.

It isn't fair. But it is grace. And it is ironic and unexpected, but nevertheless gloriously true that God is using the supreme act of unfairness to put this unfair world full of unjust people back to right. And there is coming a day when "justice will flow down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream..." Until then, I rejoice in the fact that God has not been fair with me and does not treat me like I deserve.

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