Is God Fair?
Is God fair? In my mind that is the same question as, Is God just?
I happened across a program on satellite a few minutes ago that was discussing some of these questions. They asked if God plays favorites, how we view the life we have, our perceived advantages and disadvantages, our circumstances. How much are we responsible for our situations or how much can be blame God for them? There is the ever-present issue of free will, not just our own but of those around us who's choices constantly affect our lives in both positive and negative ways.
As I continued to watch the animated discussion between Christian leaders on this show, it began to emerge that how we interpret life and circumstances has a great deal to do with how narrow or broad our view is on the great controversy between God and Satan. When we get tunnel vision and become obsessed with focusing only on our problems, our disadvantages, our pain and suffering and refuse to take into account a larger context, we can very easily become stuck in our thinking and become upset with God. But the same can happen for those with great advantages. They too can become so self-absorbed and complacent that they fail to take into account greater issues than what are obvious.
What really got my attention was the significance of the answers we choose to believe in our own struggle to make sense out of life and how fair God might be. For me it appears that the less willing we are to take into account the bigger context the more likely our opinions about God are going to be conditioned by our feelings produced by our immediate circumstances, health, social status or comfort. If things are rough for us we often tend to blame God; if things are going well we might bless Him if we think about it.
This may be one of the devils greatest schemes keeping us in constant flux in our opinions about God. Because circumstances really can be so fickle, Satan can use them to manipulate our trust in God. James calls this double-mindedness and warns us that such thinking destroys our capacity to receive things we ask from God. Allowing our minds to entertain conflicting opinions about God, trying to hold them in tension inside of us creates something along the order of spiritual bi-polarization. And such feelings about how God views us are very antagonistic to faith.
I am not suggesting there are never real struggles to make sense of God or His ways in our lives. As long as we live under the onslaughts of the enemy, held hostage under an abusive manipulator bent on keeping us as fearful of God as possible, we are going to have to strive and use effort to get past what seems like logical conclusions. However, God's Spirit is ever seeking to get us to look past the immediate context, to allow God to reveal relevant evidence from outside our current awareness to help us see things closer to His perspective, closer to what is real and true. This is the fight of faith.
I have observed that possibly the most effective element of truth in my life that has given me relief and hope and confidence has been the advantage that I have enjoyed from an awareness of the truth about the larger view of reality than most people have been privileged to hear. And as I continue to pursue a deeper understanding of that larger perspective I find that more and more, things that use to frustrate me now are subdued as they begin to be seen in proper relationship to things more important.
I have come to see that at the very core of the problem of sin, the issue of whether God can be trusted or not is of highest importance. Sin and all of Satan's insinuations about God have sought to challenge God's integrity, inferring that in at least some respects He cannot be fully trusted to be truthful, to care for His creatures, to actually be as selfless and loving as He claims He is. All of these allegations are designed to lead us to distrust Him. All of them are designed to divert our attention away from Him, to look for other sources from which we might receive the life, love, emotional nourishment and any other needs that we feel. That is what sin is all about.
What is becoming more clear to me now is that unless we address the issue of how broad our perspective is, unless we are willing to embrace God's perspective on what is really going on and seek to gain a better appreciation of His view of the larger context, it will be very difficult to make sense out of life, of religion or anything else that we need in order to thrive and enjoy a mindset of peace.
The core issue of sin is distrust of God and His motives, and that distrust always produces within us resistance toward God. This is the power behind the wages of sin, for the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. Most people have long assumed that this refers to a punishment arbitrarily imposed on us by God if we break His rules. But I have come to see that the real danger is not God threatening punishment on violators of His arbitrary rules but rather natural consequences induced from violating principles of reality that have their own cause and effects that are as immutable as God Himself.
God is love. John not only emphasizes this vital truth but emphatically shares that in Him is no darkness whatsoever – He is nothing but light ( John 1:5). I feel that when we miss how central this insight must be, we set ourselves up for much confusion about many other things. It is vitally important that we start with these truths as a foundational premise by which to evaluate every other truth. Then it becomes easier to place everything in proper perspective. We must start with the right fundamentals or we will end up with very confusing conclusions.
The problem with sin is not that it induced anger in a deity that takes offense who is holding something against us in His heart. Rather, it is our own resistance to His passionate love ingrained into our very psyche that is our greatest danger. If God is nothing but love – passionate, out-pouring, blessing, selfless love that is nothing but life-giving (think Tree of Life), then when we come close to that kind of intense presence we find that any resistance we have to embracing such love produces enormous dissonance within us that results in pain, fear and even unbearable torture. Satan knows that as long as he can keep us distrustful of God in any way that he is setting us up to experience the same demise as he is destined to experience when God will expose His face and His love fully on the day of Judgment.
Satan has long insinuated that God is an abuser, that He will leverage His power for His own advantage at the expense of others whenever He feels like it. Satan has led us to believe that God is at least partially selfish in ways like we are; that God is a mixture of good and evil, light and darkness, pleasure and pain, love and hate. These assertions are all represented in the great symbol of Satan's system presented in Eden as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That tree represented what Satan asserts God is like, and indulging in the fruit of that tree caused our first parents to pass down the damaged DNA of sin, selfishness and fear they received from it. That sinful DNA our fallen nature, reflects feelings and opinions about God that Satan designed to make us afraid of Him as we are filled with resistance to Him. Thus we become predisposed to suffer intense fear because of our resistance to His love whenever or wherever we might encounter it. “Adam, where are you? ...I was afraid and hid.”
Because Satan has so effectively convinced us that God is a judge similar to the kinds of judges we are used to encountering here on earth – stern, severe, strict, looking for every excuse to impose punishments for the slightest infractions of arbitrary laws – we are also very nervous about what God will likely do because of His access to absolute power. Most often God has been presented as One exploiting His power and advantages to get His way one way or another. God is viewed as manipulative, coercive, at times violent and unpredictable. In general, many of the opinions that religion presents about God are more in tune with Satan's insinuations about Him than reflective of what Jesus came to show us.
Jesus is the answer to all the doubts and fears that we have about God. Jesus as God came to show us what would happen if He were a human being, allowing Himself to be subjected to all the unfairness of human existence and still having full access to absolute power. This addressed one of the main assertions that Satan has used to make us afraid of God. We have long been quite intimidated about God because of all the scenarios we have heard or imagined involving His enormous advantage of having unlimited power combined with the kind of personality we have been led to think He has. Jesus came to refute those accusations. Jesus revealed to us how God would respond if we could do anything we could to arouse His anger. Can God be trusted to not abuse infinite power or use it to His advantage against those who oppose or offend Him? Look at Jesus going to the cross.
Another major contention where Satan has misrepresented God is the issue of His forgiveness. It is Satan who insists that every violation of law must receive its 'just' punishment. Interestingly, the whole system of punishments and rewards was invented by Satan to counterfeit God's system based on natural cause and effect principles. God's system is founded on what we often refer to as 'natural law' while Satan's abusive system is all about arbitrary rules, artificial enforcement mechanisms. But what drives that whole system is the core motivation of selfishness.
Satan has terribly distorted our perceptions about the real meaning of forgiveness. Part of how he has done this is by making it to an issue of pardon. Satan has deeply twisted our thinking about how God desires us to live in harmony with His laws. When we believe that doing the right thing must be done because it is a law, then we allow in a multitude of assumptions foreign to how we are designed to live. We then have a system of living based on the premises introduced by the Tree of Good and Evil instead of God's way of simply receiving life from His hand freely and joyfully.
In this counterfeit system, the issue of how to deal with infractions of the law then becomes central to our thinking and controls all our relationships. Instead of looking at relationships as opportunities to love, to receive from God in order to bless others and thrive in the process, we view life as an obligation to obey rules or else we will be, punished, abused or experience any number of other negative imposed consequences. This also causes us to view life as something of a competition for who can get the best rewards for being good, for keeping the rules, for performing the best thereby achieving more value and getting more honor from others. This is the dualistic system we embraced when we subscribed to Satan's channel and signed on to his way of living.
Satan is a ruthless legalist. He is very hostile to the idea of forgiveness for sinners, for it hampers his plans to subjugate everyone under his control. On the other hand, he has tried to manipulate God's forgiveness to make a way to escape his own impending doom. By accusing God of being unfair in forgiving fallen sinners and promising them eternal life, while at the same time leaving Satan and his angels to their impending doom in hell where they will one day disappear, Satan tries to argue that God must treat him the same as He treats forgiven sinners. Satan insists that if God can forgive and save other sinners then to be fair God must also forgive him and his angels and allow them to live too. If not, Satan insists, then God has to condemn all who have sinned to the same fate as what Satan faces. With this reasoning Satan tries to turn the whole issue of forgiveness into a question of God's fairness because of this discrepancy. But this only makes sense when viewing forgiveness as an issue of pardon rather than reconciliation.
Is it fair for God to treat Satan and his angels differently than He treats fallen sinners? How can it be right or fair for God to apparently treat some differently than others? The core issue here is not God's fairness or justice but is in the way we view the core issue of sin. If sin were nearly a problem of breaking the rules and needing pardon or else experiencing punishment, then Satan might have a case to make. But sin is not about breaking rules as Satan has asserted, rather it is an problem of broken trust. As long as anyone clings to lies about God, the internal resistance created by those lies is itself the liability that prevents them from coming into God's immediate presence without being consumed by the dissonance between His love and their resistance produced by those lies.
Again, it is not God who initiates the death of those who die the second death. Rather it is a natural result of the intense power of passionate love reacting with resistance to love that produces death. The death of the lost is induced by their internal dissonance resulting in friction, heat, pain and finally loss of life. As long as Satan clings to any of the lies he holds about God, those lies themselves prove to be the fuel of the fire that will consume him; that fire is not due to any hatred of him on God's part. The same it true for any other person. The only hope any of us can have of living for eternity in God's presence is to be brought into harmony with His love for them and cleansed of the lies about Him that produces resistance. Only as they are healed and restored into trust can they thrive in His presence instead of overheating from resistance. What is needed is not so much pardon as it is reconciliation.
Satan has not only rejected reconciliation to God refusing to humble himself and return to God's ways of living, but he has now totally annihilated all capacity within himself to do so through his perpetual insistence on doing things that violate his very design. There is no longer hope for Satan, not because God will not forgive him but because his own resistance to God's love has permanently disfigured his psyche and there is no repair possible that would respect his freedom of will. Freedom to choose who we will love and worship is essential for real love to even exist. Once we have destroyed our capacity to respond to God's agape love for us, there is nothing else God can do to restore us back to our original design of living safely within the circuit of love as the universe is designed to function.
God's fairness must be seen in the context of these truths to make more sense. God's fairness and justice are founded on His fierce jealousy for the right of every individual to freely choose whom they will love and serve. Once we have chosen whom we will follow, our hearts will be shaped and our psyche will be permanently molded into the system we have chosen; the outcome is simply a matter of cause and effect, not rewards or punishment. Just as an electrical resistor will overheat and burst into flames when exposed to too much current, so too will all who have clung to their resistance to God's agape love when they come into His presence.
That is why Jesus spoke of hell as being a place prepared for the devil and his angels. They are so resistant to agape love with no ability to recover that when exposed to God's presence they suffer extreme anguish. Recall the demons begging Jesus to let them leave the demoniacs so they would not have to be in the presence of divinity with Jesus standing there. It was His love that was torturing them and they could not stand to be in His presence.
If we want to avert such a fate as is now unavoidable for Satan and his angels, we must turn away from the all the lies he promotes and that infects so much of our thinking to allow the Spirit of God to cleanse us and recondition our hearts to live in peace with His kind of love. We must be sanctified by His Spirit, cleansed, purified and brought into harmony with the principles of God's government that operates totally on selfless love. We must allow His divine nature to dwell in us to transform us into His image once again so that we can be prepared to face Him without shame or fear.
True forgiveness involves reconciling to God, being transformed into His way of thinking and living by believing in His goodness and righteousness instead of doubting His love for us. Forgiveness is not God changing His mind about us or letting go of some supposed offense He is holding onto; no, forgiveness is cleansing our minds and hearts of the fear, shame, guilt, condemnation and all the other negative feelings we experience that we supposed were coming from God. These feelings are natural results of living out of harmony with God, but they are not imposed punishments for breaking His rules. We must be reconciled to Him and be restored into a trusting relationship with Him in order to embrace the life that Jesus came to provide for all those who are willing to believe the truth about God.
God is always fair. When it appears He is not, the problem is never with God but in our distorted perceptions and limited understanding. In those times we have to believe He is fair even when circumstances manipulated by the enemy seem to imply otherwise. There is abundant evidence upon which to base our trust in God's fairness. As we choose to base our opinions about Him on the evidences He has provided instead of relying on our fickle feelings influenced by confusion around us, we can then enjoy that perfect peace that passes all understanding as our hearts are reconciled with the life-giving heart of our Father in heaven.