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“It’s not fair!” If we had a nickel for every time we’ve heard that said – or said it ourselves – we’d probably be wealthy. Fairness is one commodity that has been in very short supply from the beginning of human history.
Jesus was certainly no stranger to unfairness. When he entered Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion, the crowds were cheering for him and waving palm fronds to honor him him in the traditional manner of an anointed king.
We can read the story in John 12:12-15:
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt.”
It was a glorious day. But a week later, the crowds were shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” It wasn’t fair. He had never done anything to harm anyone. He did not deserve to be killed. But lying witnesses and corrupt officials had turned the crowds against him.
By the time most of us enter kindergarten, we have discovered the sad truth that life isn’t always fair. So, as much as we hate it, we do our best to adjust to a life expecting to be deceived, lied to, scammed, or otherwise taken advantage of by self-serving people. And most of us, if we were really honest, would have to admit to being unfair to others a time or two ourselves. But we all have a deep sense that we deserve to be treated fairly, even if we aren’t always fair ourselves.
Ironically, the gospel, which is by definition “good news,” isn’t fair either. The fact is, we’re all sinners, and by definition, we deserve punishment. But God doesn’t give us what we deserve; he gives us exactly what we don’t deserve – grace.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:6-11,
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Grace isn’t fair. With grace, we’re getting what we don’t deserve, and we’re getting it because God loves and cherishes us in spite of our sins. He values us so much that he took our sins on himself, forgiving us and drawing us into fellowship with him and with one another.
It’s backwards and upside down from the way we usually look at things. We might have discovered in Kindergarten the bad news that life isn’t fair. But when we meet Jesus, we find the good news that life isn’t fair. He gives us exactly what we don’t deserve. He forgives all our sins and gives us eternal life. It isn’t fair, but it’s the best news we could ever hear.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of life.