July 11, 2014.
Today I want to talk a little bit about fairness. We all have an almost innate sense of fair. Actually, I would call it innate, or what C.S. Lewis would call moral law. If we take an honestly look at a situation, we understand what treating someone with fairness means, at least to some extent. But my question is, are we as Christians called to a life of fairness?
Certainly we are called to be fair to others; perhaps even more than fair. This can be seen from many of the words of Jesus, not the least of which what we call the golden rule:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
We are also called to live at peace with all men, so much as we can control ourselves. Paul gives this instruction to the church in Rome:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
I think this is almost a given when people think about Christianity. It should be known that Christian’s should act in this manner, and if it is not known, then I think there are Christian’s to blame. But today I would like to take it a step further. I believe that we are called to a life of being fair to others (and beyond) but not to a life that demands fairness for ourselves.
What? Sound harsh? Perhaps it is. But lets examine some scripture to see what I mean. One of the easiest places to start is with the words of our Lord:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
This is a very well known passage, but it is also, in my opinion, one of the most ignored passages in the New Testament. Most Christians have read through this time and again, but how many of us actually listen to the words here? I know that I don’t always apply them to my life. It’s hard! But when did something being hard mean we could just ignore it? This is what I am talking about when I say we are not called to demand fairness for ourselves.
Read the passage again. Does it sound fair? The first part does: and eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. But Jesus says that this is not the standard we are to have. If someone wrongs us, we are not to retaliate. We are not to seek vengeance. We are not to call for justice. In fact, Paul would go on to say bless those who persecute you (Romans 12)! Is that fair? No. Does that matter?
One of my favorite passages about this subject comes from I Corinthians 6:
“So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!”
(1 Corinthians 6:4-8)
Why not rather suffer wrong for the sake of your brother? Wow! This is a foreign concept to us so often. We are called to be servant, to be humble. Humility does not insist on it’s own. Neither does love. “But that’s not fair!” I’ll ask again. Does that matter?
Do we really want fair? If God was fair with us, what would we deserve? Think about that. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Receiving glory and salvation isn’t fair. We were all sinners headed for a Devil’s hell. But Jesus came to die, to take our place, and grant us salvation. Grace is not fair. Do we really want fair?
Some will say, “But you can’t just let people walk all over you…” and to some extent I agree. But I think we use this as an excuse too often. In fact, I would venture to say that if we treat others the way we have been told to treat them, they will notice. Sure, some people might take advantage of us, but not everyone will. And when people notice, we have the opportunity to spread the good news of Christ, which is the reason for our actions. Isn’t that what it is all about?
This is a hard lesson to hear, I know. But the words of Jesus are not easy. That isn’t the point. Christ didn’t come so that we could have an easier life, he came so that we could have a better life, here and in the life beyond. Let us all strive for a more humble life.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matt 5-6, Romans 12, I Corinthians 6.
Grace and peace.