‘Fair’ Is a Call in Baseball
Vol: 23 Issue: 20 Saturday, May 20, 2017
I got an email from a reader recently that complained that God is not being fair by condemning non-Christians to hell. If God was fair, claimed my correspondent, He’d give everybody a second chance.
We’ll deal with the second chance idea first, and then go back to the issue of God being ‘fair’.
Salvation is a win-win scenario, both for those of us who are saved, and for God. God extends His grace to us, which the Bible says gives Him pleasure because He loves us. When we accept the gift of salvation, we do so by faith. God counts that faith towards our account as righteousness and is therefore able to enter into fellowship with us.
It is a two-way street; God chooses us, and we choose Him. Nobody is compelled to come to Christ; Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, but God only has fellowship with those who accept the Gift that is offered.
It is about faith. Faith that God is. Faith that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin. Faith that He will keep His promise to save us. Paul notes that ‘we walk by faith and not by sight’ (2nd Corinthinans 5:7) and God loves us for that.
A ‘second chance’ after we are dead is not faith. It is not a choice between trusting in Jesus and trusting in ourselves.
When a criminal stands before a judge, he is almost always sorry. But when he is standing before the judge, his sorrow is for himself. He is sorry he got caught, sorry he got convicted and is sorry he is going to have to pay the penalty.
That is not the same thing as being sorry he committed the crime. He committed the crime because he trusted he would be able to get away with it.
He knew that there was a penalty attached to the crime when he committed it, but criminals operate on the theory that they won’t get caught, or that they will somehow beat the rap.
It isn’t until all hope is lost that they (sometimes) admit their guilt and sorrow, and that admission usually doesn’t come until just before sentencing in the hopes maybe their sentence will be reduced.
The second chance theory is like that. It assumes that once a person actually sees that there is a heaven and there is a hell, they will choose heaven and God will honor that choice because He is ‘fair’.
In that scenario, one is choosing between two certainties. But salvation comes by faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
A person counting on a second chance is like a convicted criminal hoping that his apology for his crimes will cause the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict and the proscribed punishment.
And it is because the judge is fair that the criminal knows his apology won’t change his conviction.
But when it comes to God, people assume God is unfair for exactly the same reason.
This will come as a shock to some of you. God isn’t ‘fair’. If God was fair, nobody could be saved. There are good people who are not Christians, but who try to do the best they can.
And there are devoted followers of other gods who go to outrageous lengths to please their deity. Consider the followers of Islam, for a second. Their god is distant, unknowable and demanding.
The observant Muslim prays five times a day, doesn’t smoke or drink, fasts for a whole month every year, keeps strict dietary laws, and knows the only certain way to paradise is death by jihad.
If that kind of dedication isn’t enough to earn one a place in paradise, then a Christian who seldom goes to church, smokes and drinks, doesn’t pray very often and seldom witnesses for his faith shouldn’t have a chance.
But the Scriptures say that the observant Muslim is condemned, but the wishy-washy Christian is redeemed. Does that sound fair to you?
What would be fair would be if God condemned all sinners to hell. And since the Bible says that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ then all should be condemned. “Mercy” is not the same as “fairness.”
I know who I am, just as God knows who I am. If I were God, I would be forced to condemn me as a sinner. That would be only fair. Instead, God extended His mercy to me and made a way for me to get around the fairness doctrine because He knew I could never do so on my own.
God knows that there is never enough I could do to blot away my own sins. If I prayed five times in a certain direction every day, fasted for a month out of every year, and performed a litany of other duties as part of my worship to Him, it wouldn’t change the fact that I was guilty of sin.
A man could be a pillar of the community, a well-known philantropist and dedicated to doing good things, but all that is meaningless if he is charged with a serious crime. There is an old saying about not doing the crime if you can’t do the time. THAT is ‘fair’.
Christians are saved, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
‘Fair’ is a call in baseball.