The Mustard Seed
"Not fair!" This is a familiar complaint expressed by many school-age children when they feel that someone else got a better deal than they did. I am sure that many adults express that same complaint to God -- "Not fair!"
God is not "fair," as we measure fairness. God is just as He defines justice.
Justice means that God gives us what we deserve. When we do wrong, we receive the consequences of our actions, which ultimately includes punishment. And when we do right, again we receive the consequence for our actions, which may include reward. Keep in mind that simply "doing right" does not earn us extra credit, because in doing what is right, we are only doing what we are suppose to do. Justice compares our performance only against God's absolute standards of perfection, without any regard to what other people say, do, or receive.
Fairness, on the other hand, measures what we receive as compared to what other people receive, without regard to God's standards. Justice is a vertical measure; fairness is a horizontal measure.
Most folks get justice and fairness mixed up. A popular phrase among Christians nowadays is "social justice." But when you ask them to define that, what they give you is a description of social fairness. Or when I ask people why God should let them into heaven, the most common answer I get is, "I try to do what is right. I live by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. And in the end when God judges me, He will see that I am not as bad as other people." I'm sorry, but God does not grade on a curve.
God is holy and we are not. And if we all received what our sins truly deserve, none of us could stand before Holy God. "No one is right with God, no one at all... Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God's glory." (Romans 3.10,23 NIrV)
Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. God is not only just; He is also merciful. The Bible says that God hates sin, but He loves sinners.
From our perspective, it appears that God's justice and God's mercy are conflicting attributes, and that He must choose which He will ignore and which He will follow. But God has made a way that satisfies both His justice and His mercy. "But now God has shown us how to become right with him... Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free. God gave him as a sacrifice to pay for sins. So he forgives the sins of those who have faith in his blood." (Romans 3.21-25 NIrV)
When God our Heavenly Father offered His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, on the cruel cross, Jesus suffered the full punishment that our sins deserve. This satisfies God's justice. Now, because Jesus has paid our debt, He can fully forgive us and open heaven to us. This satisfies God's mercy. And this gift is yours. Receive it by faith, trusting Him.
Back in the Middle Ages, the church emphasized God's justice and neglected to teach much about God's love and mercy. Today we see the opposite happening. God's justice is so politically incorrect in our current culture, we fear mentioning it. But without justice, mercy means nothing. Why do we do that? Our consciences tell us that God is just, and that makes us afraid. We vainly try to quiet our fear by either locking ourselves into a regimented life of religious rules hoping that we can measure up to God's standard of holiness, or we try to silence our conscience by denying that God is holy and just. How foolish we are! Let's simply take the gift that Jesus offers.
While the focus of this study is God's attributes, this month's topic sparks another debate about how we also ought to relate to other people with justice and mercy. For that discussion, please look online at christdeaf.org/bible and scroll down to the topical study on "Justice and Mercy."
Next month's topic will be more about God's grace and kindness.
~~ Pastor Ron
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Pastor Ron Friedrich