Brian is an aspiring writer that seeks to inform and educate the public through informative and educational pieces from various categories.
Is Life Unfair?
I bet at certain point of your life, some of you may have experienced some kind of injustice one way or another. It could be you getting passed over for an opportunity of a promotion that you have been eyeing for so long, or maybe you were faced with discrimination for being authentic and true to yourself. Sometimes, these predicaments makes you think whether there is truly any fairness at all in this world? Some more religious people might even come close to asking why does God not see what is happening and allowing such unfairness to take place.
Well, the tricky part to answering this conundrum does not lie in our understanding on the extent of fairness and equality. In fact, unraveling the mystery of this fragile concept of justice requires us to dive deeper rather than skim through the surface in forming a comprehension of this theory. I shall bring into this deliberation my opinions and views that are closely associated with my religion of practise, that is Christianity. However, I do believe and am open to admit that there are other legitimate explanations that can be offered by other faiths as well.
Be Merciful, But Not Ignorant
Before we explore further on the concept of fairness and justice, we must first understand that in order for something to be fair, there is a certain level or mercy that comes into play. You might wonder what is the connection and the correlation of these two seemingly different concepts when it comes to being treated fairly and justly?
In reference to Christianity, the Bible has subtly conveyed the message that God intends for us to live a life of mercy; that is to show compassion or forgiveness towards others even if it is within our power to cause hurt to a person who may have wronged us. Albeit being a merciful God, He is not kind to those who disrespect the values that He has put in place for us to abide by. This goes without saying, that we are not to turn a blind eye when we witness injustice taking place. However, before we jump to conclusion or make the next step, make it a habit to ask yourself; what would God do if He is in this particular situation?
Uncovering the Scriptures
In order to gain better comprehension of the subject matter, let us first try to understand the messages that were laid in the Bible for us to examine and apply. In the Book of Romans chapter 12, the Scripture outlines the call for patience, mercy, love, freedom from vengeance, returning good for evil, and not cursing. These values are to be upheld even in the direst of circumstances, in which it may seem absolutely right to repay the wrongdoings you experienced with a penalty on the spot.
Well, you might ask what is the relationship between all these verses in the Bible and the apparent justice of punishing those who may have wronged you? Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let us examine the various verses detailed in Romans 12 that preaches the aforementioned values that we should honour.
I would like to highlight starting from verses 9 and 10 which states, ”Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” In loving someone either your family or partner, be genuine in your act of love; each person may have their idiosyncrasies, but let us choose to focus on the good of the person and honor them. In terms of responding to people that may have done you wrong, verse 14, 17, and 18 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Although some may have wronged you, do not let it anger you that curse will spill from your tongue. Also never stoop down to their level and seek to claim an eye for an eye. God urges us not to take matters into our own hands and seek revenge at the wrong place, but instead, trust Him to do what is right by us. The message is clearly portrayed in verse 19, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Instead of instinctively acting out what you will to those who have hurt and wronged you, verse 20 and 21 state that “On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
If you read along the lines, there seems to be a clear message whereby God is asking His people to be merciful and treat others better than they deserve to be treated. This even applies to people with whom you may not get along. When you do as such, you are actually blessing them and you wish them good from your heart even if they are undeserving of it. The case in point is that it is not for you to decide whether the person deserves to be punished or not, but is for you to do what is right.
There are other sections in the Bible, of which Scriptures preached the same thing emphasized in the Book of Romans. You may take a look at Luke 6:27-31 and determine for yourself the consistencies of God’s word and what He is asking us to do. Once you have read through these Scriptures, you will find that it summarizes a very powerful, humbling, heartbreaking, and life-transforming teaching in the Bible - mark your life with mercy. The lessons offered in these Scriptures highlights to us two valuable things; it shows to us what God is like and the purity of our motive in response to any circumstance we may face.
What is God like?
For fellow Christians, you may be familiar with the teaching that emphasize living a God-like life. We believe that God created man in His own image, in which His plans and purposes are to be made known to the world and actualized through us. The Book of Ephesians 4:32 in the Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” This magnanimity shown by God is indeed a value that is preached throughout the Bible, such as portrayed in the Book of Matthew 103:10, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” This goes to show, that God even in His mightiness and absolute power, does not penalize us even when times call for it. Instead, He may use an alternative way to show us that we have indeed done something wrong.
The main reason why Christians are called to be merciful people and treat others better than they think they deserved is that God does that first. Just as illustrated in Matthew 5:45, “that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Living our life in such a manner will in a way reflect the Godliness in us. Simply put, people should be able to look at us and get an idea of what our God is like.
Do not seek to hurt others because you are hurting
How can you live a life where you are not miserable and tormented by your thoughts of getting square with someone and stating your rights? Is there a way out of it, whereby you forgo the need to inflict pain on others just to feel better? What displays that God is your treasure and that He satisfies your soul? Believe that God has the power to satisfy and give us hope of everlasting glory instead of temporary respite from taking matters into our own hands. Let us see how Hebrews 10:34 and 35 have to say about this, “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
One important thing that you need to bear in mind is that no sin will go unpunished in God's universe. It will either be punished on judgment day or it will have been punished at the cross where He poured His wrath on His son for all those who are in Him.
This then brings us to another question that might be playing at the back of the mind of some who are skeptical about these dynamics. Are you saying that God alone is responsible to keep the check and balance and rectify any injustice that is present in this whole wide world? Is there any institution or bodies entrusted to keep the worldly order, or does God intend to keep the right to Himself?
It might be refreshing to know that there are indeed certain institutions and principles of the world that are meant to enforce law and order to avoid chaos. God does ordain specific bodies with the right as his representatives to correct anything that may be out of place, and this is written all over the Bible. The act of putting right or putting in place certain things in the manner that God so dictate does not contradict with mercy.
Examples of institutions and people who are ordained by Him
The few key individuals and organizations that have God’s permission to carry out His decree to keep the law and order in line with the principle of mercy are detailed as follows.
Parents and the Upbringing at Home
Parents are given the birthright to discipline their children in any way they deem appropriate. In doing so, parents should put into practise both mercy and justice, in punishing and forgiving their children. In Proverbs 23:13, the Bible says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.”
In Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” In the Scripture Ephesians 6:4, the Bible also says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
In other words, when a child dishonours his mother or his father through disobedience after appropriate warnings, the Bible does not say to bless this child and turn the other cheek. Instead, as a good parent, it is only right to discipline the child and administer punishment should it be required. Justice is administered, while mercy is displayed in the form of a parent’s love to their child, in which they do not seek to spoil their child by letting them get away with any wrongdoings. The simple act of correcting the child when they have misbehaved, will carry weight into their adulthood and make them a better adult.
Teachers and the Education System
In the sphere of education, the assessment of grades ought to proceed along the lines of fairness. So, brilliant work is rewarded with excellent grades, and poor work will be assigned a grade aligned with the effort. A child will then learn that the effort put forth will be the reward they will reap at the end of the day.
Now, when the foundation of justice is in place, the possibility of mercy in education abounds. When the grades of a fellow student are not in proportion to the effort, meaning they could be diligent but they are not able to grasp the knowledge well. This will then be up to the teacher to assess and use his or her discretion to determine whether a child requires help in their studies. As such, a teacher might go the extra mile in teaching and guiding the student until he or she is able to perform.
An Employee and the Organisation He Works For
The Bible emphasizes that one must work for their food. A laborer deserves his wages, whilst a sluggard does not. Take this for instance; an employee who is slacking might just be fired for not pulling their fair share of the work. This action will result in a saved portion of the wage for someone else who is deserving. So, in all fairness, a form of order will have been restored by trimming the person off the team.
It is crucial to note that putting in the equivalent of the effort allows one to enjoy the reward, being in the form of wages equivalent to the work done. Put simply, the economy will not survive if one can simply take goods without paying for them or take wages without working for them. Nonetheless, this whole human culture will collapse where there is no fulfillment of those expectations. Here is a Biblical illustration that summarizes this notion quite well - 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule - “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
On another note, should mercy come to play in this situation, the worker may be given a warning to change his behaviour so that he can still remain in the team. Sometimes, when a person commits a transgression, delayed penalty is good to asses the severity of the condition and to determine whether there is a way to salvage the situation.
Civil Authorities and the Institution They Represent
The Bible states that the civil authorities have the right to punish wrongdoers accordingly. For instance, if you are a policeman, you have the right to arrest criminals with handcuffs or wield your gun if necessary. On the other hand, if you are a judge, you have the right to imprison people for felonies and fine them for misdemeanors accordingly. Why can these people act that way? It is because they were entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that order is in place.
In Romans 13:2-4, the Bible says, “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right, and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Pastors and the Church
The Bible says that the Church should discipline its members who are intentionally and persistently sinful. In 1 Corinthians 5:4, the Bible notes that, “So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that His spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 3:14 says, “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.” It is true that there are some Christians who profess faith but live a life of open disobedience, which is why you should cut off fellowship with them. Do so in a mild manner, conveying the message very politely and gently. This is not being hypocritical and ruthless, but doing so in order for you to not fall into the trap of following in their footsteps.
Justice and Mercy Come Hand-in-Hand
From all the illustrations above, there is one thing that was made very clear. Justice can be served by giving people what they deserve, or we show mercy by giving them better than they deserve. These two are different concepts but the same. Upholding justice has a lot to do with mercy because one cannot exist without the other.
Whether you are trying to uphold justice or trying to demonstrate mercy, each aspect should arise from the same motivation. Your actions must be guided by a pure intention and not from a place of anger, dissatisfaction, fear, or vengeance. It should flow from a heart that is deeply satisfied in God and submitted to Him. This means that even if you have the right to enforce justice within your power, make sure that it comes from the right intention and place.
In conclusion, God is the high power and force that keeps the world in balance. However, in order to do so, He has also put into place several institutions and key persons that will help Him to ensure that His will is observed and enforced. Just think about it, the rule of just-recompense must hold, or the very foundation these institutions stand for will be of no use. Thus, if you are a policeman, pastor, lawyer, parent, employee, partner, or any law-enforcing institution, let your justice and mercy be the truth. This will be in accordance as God calls us to carry it to show what God is like and how deeply content we are in Him.
© 2021 Brian