As I thought about God’s goodness to us and how it is balanced by his justice, I looked at various definitions of the words. Much of the time I found that the word ‘fairness’ is used in the definition of justice. But when we look at the justice of God it can appear as anything but fair, as the world defines fairness; which is: ‘impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination.’ Basically, ‘if you do the crime you must pay the time’, period.
God’s system of justice does not operate at all like the American system. In our country if two people commit the same crime, their punishment is supposed to be the same, or equal. In God’s system two people who have committed the same offense may not be treated the same; one may be doomed to eternal punishment, and the other walk away totally free.
That doesn’t seem fair on the surface, so what is the difference? It is the mercy of God. The first person kept their offense on their own shoulders, and the second repented and asked for God’s forgiveness through Jesus. The first will receive the punishment that he deserves, and the second will not. His punishment will still be handed down, but not onto his own shoulders. It will be placed onto the shoulders of Jesus, who by his death on the cross took the punishment for him, as his substitute. To those who lack understanding, it is still not fair. But it is just.
We see examples of unfairness around us every day: It isn’t fair that one man loses his job and his coworker does not; it’s not fair that a tornado destroys a home and the next door neighbor’s home is untouched; it isn’t fair that your friend who never smoked a cigarette has lung cancer, and his uncle who smokes three packs a day does not. We are saddened by these kinds of events, but not really shocked by them. Life can be unfair. But does that mean that God is unfair? Or the bad things which happen around us are his judgment?
Not at all. We have all sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God. So if we received in this life only the things that we deserve, all of our houses would be destroyed, or we would all have cancer. We have good health and so many blessings because of God’s mercy. It is not my purpose here to explain why life’s so unfair sometimes. My purpose is to help us see that God is never unfair, or unjust. His justice is always satisfied. Romans 6:23 states that ‘the wages of sin is death.’ The penalty for sin will be paid. But the real Good News is that Jesus paid that penalty for all those who trust in Him—that is mercy! And the remainder of the verse says ‘but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’. That is grace! Love is displayed and Justice is served.
God’s goodness can be seen through His justice. But is it fair? It all depends on your perspective. From one side of the cross it probably does not look like it. But from where I stand it is more than fair, it is beautiful.