Do you remember much of grade school? I remember a little bit, but what I do remember are all the games we used to play. Most of them revolved around epic battles involving either toy guns, sticks we pretended were guns, toy swords that eventually got turned into guns, and we would war on each other for hours stopping only to run in and get a drink. Now the pervading rule of playing “Army” or “Spies” is to know that when you’ve been “shot”, to lay down for the adequate amount of time. I seem to remember a ten-count appeased most of the players. Now, if you didn’t count or worse yet, didn’t acknowledge that you’d been “hit” you were IMMEDIATELY called out for not playing fair. Being fair, especially when there were no adults around, was the only thing that kept the playing field level, that kept everyone in the matrix. If there was no fairness, the game ceased to be fun and the players would most likely dissipate, leaving smaller groups to throw things or climb something.
Now I’m 35 and the games have changed, namely, because I never enlisted in the armed forces or any, uh, spy companies. But I’ve been thinking about this idea of fairness lately. What is it? Are we entitled to it? Is God fair? What would it look like if we let go of the idea that we should be treated fairly?
I believe that fairness-given is a form of goodness and respect. It’s an attitude in action that lets others know that we value them on the same level as others. I think, though, that when it turns into an expectation that we should be treated fairly is when we get ourselves into trouble. As Americans, we already have an inflated sense of entitlement due to the many things that we “enjoy”. Thanks to TV shows that highlight our very wealthy, many of us walk around with this nagging sense that life has not treated us as “fair” as it could have. Then we take potshots at various people that we don’t think deserve what they have and say things like “She’s just famous because her family’s rich.” “He’s good at football, but he did all those terrible things to dogs, so I can’t stand him.” We make ourselves the judge and suffer because of it. We hold back love and forgiveness in the name of fairness. Love and forgiveness, when given, grows and multiplies. When held back, it poisons and rots. At all times love must trump fairness. Here’s why: our idea of fairness comes from our singular perspective. And that is not nearly enough to appoint us as judge and jury.
So are justice and fairness synonymous? Justice ties us directly to the law of the land. Fairness, ties us to each other within the context of that law. Just a note of observation; there are action movies that have heroes touting justice, or naming their weapons “Justice”, but I’ve never heard of someone proclaiming themselves to be “Fairness”. All the kids point- “Look, it’s Fairman and Equalitizer from the League of Fairness!”
An important question I and my Christian friends, need to ask ourselves is; “Is God fair?” I would say absolutely not. He is Love and He is Just. What would’ve been the words of Jesus if He was operating under the code of fairness? “If I can be killed for your sins, than you can be killed too. It’s only fair.” No. Love trumped fairness. He placed our lives ahead of His own. That’s NOT fairness, but yet that’s the foundation of all that we teach, preach and sing. Do we need a fresh reading of the parable of the forgiven debt
So what it would look like if we let go of our need for fairness? Little things like waiting in line at the store might bring out questions like “Do I think I’m entitled to a fast line? I’m buying tons of crap I might not really need and there are parents in this world weeping as they watch their child die of starvation.” Can you find the fairness in that?
And what if something truly terrible happens to you or a loved one? I have no fair-related answer for you. I could tell you that there’s a loving God that sees the bigger picture, but what if you don’t believe? What if your prayers aren’t answered? Fairness ceases to exist. What will you do with that? What will I do with it? What can we do? We can breathe. We can weep. We can pray. And we can hope. I would contend that where fairness ends, faith begins.
This is a song by Natalie Grant, who’s friend lost 2 people she loved in the span of 48 hours and wrote this song about it.