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Is Your God Just?

January 3, 2012

In a society saturated with a variety of different and conflicting beliefs, (religious or not) hopefully my title has caught your attention.

It’s worth noting from the start that, whether you consider yourself religious or not, you are a person who worships. By nature we spend our days worshipping gods.

An easy way to identify the god(s) in your life would be to ask yourself what you spend most of your time thinking about. What do you get most enthusiastic about in life? What do you spend most of your money on? These gods can range from Michael Bublé to your marriage, from secularism to sex. Now these things aren’t bad things and I’m not saying this it’s not possible to enjoy them without worshipping them. It’s only when they take the best parts of your time, money and enthusiasm, when they take a position in your life and in your heart that they just don’t deserve, that’s when they becomes gods to you.

We could easily delve deeper into this discussion (maybe that’s another blog for another day) but what I really wanted to look at today is the issue of justice in the context of our wrongdoing, and in particular I want to look at what our gods have to say about it.

You see it’s in the arena that we can see how Christianity sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s so vastly different to anything else. Everywhere you turn the message you are most likely to receive is “your good deeds can outweigh your bad ones.” If we look at all of the main world religions essentially it boils down to this, if you do this and that then you can get into your version of Heaven. We often still imagine those medieval scales that measure our bad deeds and then are counterbalanced by our good deeds. We all recognise that we have done bad stuff but as long as we do enough good we might be ok.

But I want to ask a question. Is that justice?

Let’s imagine a legal scenario. Let’s imagine I had been caught red-handed in the most heinous of crimes. The evidence is clear and concrete – my guilt laid bare for all to see. The judge then says: “Ok Mr Chalmers, there’s no doubt in my mind that you are guilty of this crime, however may I ask – what good deeds have you done this week?” I then explain to the judge that I sometimes give to charity or that I helped my friend change his car tyre the other week. Just imagine the public outrage if I was then let off my crime because of one or two good deeds.

If your belief is that you can get to your version of Heaven because your good deeds ‘outweigh’ your bad ones then I would question the justice involved? It doesn’t matter how many times you do good – your wrongdoing still needs to be accounted for.

Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven because not only is He infinitely merciful but also infinitely just. Through His death on the cross He offers salvation to all who trust Him, but the reason He can do that is because His death means that our wrongdoing is actually dealt with – it’s actually punished – justice is served.

You see the God of the bible is eternally merciful but He cannot and will not sweep sin under the carpet. Every sin will be accounted for. The choice is whether you pay for it or you let Jesus.

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11 Comments
  1. David Pickering permalink

    While I get that God is just, and that he will account for every sin, but does he only account for sins against Him?

    lets say a really rich stranger gets frustrated with me, maybe they thought I was a little argumentative or something, or they didn’t like the doctrine i followed (lol) they beat me up and i end up in a wheelchair, I’m then unable to fully provide financially for my family.

    While i get that being violent towards me wasn’t loving, and was sinful, when God forgives that person through Jesus punishment, what happens to the sin against me? Wouldn’t justice require that the perpetrator recompense me? or does he need to be put into a wheelchair too?

    if Jesus takes his place and atones for that mans sin, this balances Gods scales, but not mine.

    Does that matter? i’m a sinner too but dont I deserve justice? If we say no, that i dont deserve justice, then as we’re all sinners, the poor, abused, weak etc dont deserve justice either.

    Is a just God ok with injustice against me? maybe so that i might become a better person, or minister to others in wheelchairs maybe?

    What do you think?

  2. David Pickering permalink

    Sorry, one more slightly different thing i noticed…

    “Just imagine the public outrage if I was then let off my crime because of one or two good deeds.”

    just imagine the public outrage if you were not punished, because someone else said they would go to prison on your behalf…

    This doesn’t sound like justice does it? You murder someone, and get away with it because someone else was punished on your behalf…

    you get away with it and someone else is punished only as long as you’re very very sorry?

    oh well that’s ok then?!?!?!?!

  3. Well Dave you never let me down in terms of offering some thought-provoking challenge. Some excellent questions / comments. I wonder if someone will offer their thoughts?

  4. Matt permalink

    Well not sure this is an answer but i’ll put my thoughts forward. God does care about injustice, and he deals with us all individually. So he would deal with the rich stranger and you too. If God is just then it makes sense to apply the fact that God is good and gives good gifts to his people, so maybe you end up in a wheelchair, that doesnt stop God blessing you in a different way or with a different job.

    The old law of an eye for an eye stopped applying to us after the cross, now we can have the larger perspective of forgiving the people that duff you up knowing that God is just, loves you and has great plans for your life now and rewards in heaven.

    Does this help at all?

    Matt

    • I think that’s very helpful Matt. I also reckon that God does still use the secular judicial system to execute justice. Obviously this poses difficult questions for the times when judicial systems are corrupt. I think the main thing for me is that remembering that by far the bigger issues is our sin towards God – a crime far more extreme than our sin towards each other. My perspective is that the greatness of sin rises and falls with the greatness of the one sinned against. Any other thoughts out there?

  5. reverb1983 permalink

    jezly, If the greatness (magnatude, weight,worth etc?) of sin rises and falls with the greatness of of the one sinned against, then effectively, as God is infinitely greater than me, my sins against the poor and oppressed are meaningless but sins agains God matter a whole lot. Is there no balance?

    Matt, was me being put in a wheelchair part of this great plan for my life? Am I adequately compensated for the loss of the use of my legs, by the other ‘blessings’ or ‘good gifts’ that he gives me? In any case what about injustices to non-christians, does God give them rewards in heaven too if they’ve suffered enough on earth?

    Let’s look at this another way, maybe saying that God is just doesn’t mean he doles out justice,and punishment etc, maybe it means he deals justly, in a just way, with us?

    See the following definitions of “just” below from a dictionary:

    1. Honorable and fair in one’s dealings and actions: a just ruler. See Synonyms at fair1.
    2. Consistent with what is morally right; righteous: a just cause.
    3. Properly due or merited: just deserts.
    4. Law Valid within the law; lawful: just claims.
    5. Suitable or proper in nature; fitting: a just touch of solemnity.
    6. Based on fact or sound reason; well-founded: a just appraisal.

    I think 1 strikes the strongest chord with me (followed by 2) in what I understand of the loving character of God.

    So God is just and fair in that the same offer is available to every single person on the planet:
    1) believe in Jesus – spend eternity in joy and peace – get away with your sins
    or
    2) don’t believe in Jesus – spend eternity suffering in torment – pay for your sins

    It’s fair and just because we get to make the choice. (so long as we do actually get to make the choice). But the two options themselves are not fair and just. Not having to pay the penalty for my sins is unjust, precisely because my good deeds do not outweigh my bad. I deserve to be punished, but my God is loving and merciful.

    The injustice of it all is scandalous!

  6. Dave I think I will stand by my previous comment about the greatness of sin rising and falling dependent on the greatness of the person sinned against. Your comment about sin against poor people being meaningless in comparison, I would say, isn’t a fair reflection on what I was trying to communicate. I would argue that every one on earth is of equal value, no one is more important than anyone else. So to sin against any person is still an issue (in God’s eyes), especially as we were all made in God’s image. This view obviously isn’t totally consistent with society’s view as if I were to punch the queen then there would be greater consequences for me to face than if I were to punch Joe Bloggs. However I am mainly trying to look at this in the context of what God has to say. Sin against anyone is bad but equally bad across the board I reckon. However by far the biggest issue in all of this is that all sin (against fellow man or not) is sin against God, and given his infinite greatness and excellency our sin is proportionately heinous and deserving of punishment. I hope that clears up my view here – it is of course just my view, although heavily influenced by Jonathan Edwards.

  7. Jenna permalink

    Hello, I’ve been reading through your blog, and I find it very interesting.

    This reply is directed at reverb 1983 and the statement:
    “So God is just and fair in that the same offer is available to every single person on the planet:
    1) believe in Jesus – spend eternity in joy and peace – get away with your sins
    or
    2) don’t believe in Jesus – spend eternity suffering in torment – pay for your sins”

    Perhaps this same offer is available to everyone, but that does not mean it is just. If God is just, wouldn’t he allow everyone an equal opportunity to experience Christianity? Location and upbringing are huge factors in an individual’s system of beliefs. Of course, there is the extreme example of those who live in isolated environments and never even hear about Christ, but there are also those who were raised to believe in a different god and believe their choice is validated by the prevalence and acceptance of their belief system within their culture. Is it fair that I, who was raised to believe in Christ, and live in a community where such belief is strongly encouraged, would be judged in the same way as one who had never heard of Christ?

    I’m not arguing against the validity (or invalidity) of the reverb’s statement, but I do not think it is a just system.

    • Hello Jenna,

      Thanks for your comments.

      This is a HUGE topic and, in my opinion, a real tough one to get your head round. In fact its so much easier to try and water this whole thing down to something manageable but I think it’s worth stating at the start that we shouldn’t be shocked to find certain aspects of God hard to cope with, if He really is ineffable, which most Christians are comfortable to agree with, then we will logically find certain things hard, if not impossible to fully grasp.

      That being said I think your thoughts are totally valid and I have thought about this a lot also.

      The issue being discussed here is ultimately how can God fairly judge those who had never had a chance to hear of what Jesus did on the cross. You mention those who have grown up in different cultures who are far more likely to be raised according to a different religion, you also mention that there may even be some people who have never ever even heard of Christ (you are of course right). I would say it is actually even more complicated than that. What about everyone who was born, lived and died before Jesus died on the cross? What about the millions of people who passed through life before Christ’s work of atonement what hope have they got of salvation when they have lived and died before Christ

      I’m not going to claim I have the definitive answer to this question but I do think there are certain issues we need to consider. I will try and be brief:

      1. The bible says that Christ died once and for all. The affects of the cross ripple back through time as much as they do forwards. In fact arguably the reason God shows Himself so merciful so often throughout the Old Testament is because of the future work of Christ.

      2. The Old Testament pattern of judgment then mercy, then judgment, then mercy is quite important for us in understanding why there was so much time before Christ. It shows us not that God is inconsistent but that we are. It shows us that mankind couldn’t sort its own mess out. God gave us generations of opportunity to show that we couldn’t get by without redeeming grace. Our history books show us that we needed someone outside of us to save us.

      3. Jesus states he is the only way to the Father, yet so many people in the bible, before Him, are obviously welcomed into God’s family. People whose faith was ‘credited’ to them as righteousness. How does that make sense? I think their predicament was identical to ours. We exist 2,000 odd years after Christ and we too come to a place of recognizing our own depravity – we also can see that we cannot deal with our sin and we can feel a chasm between God and us. So (like Job from the Old Testament) we yearn for someone who can mediate between God and us. In both cases our only hope is to put our faith in Christ. The difference is that today we know a little more about what that means. In the Old Testament it would have been a case of putting their trust into a Holy, yet merciful God. We do the same thing today.

      4. With regard to people who grow up in different cultures I would first point out that you are hard pushed to find a culture where Christ isn’t already worshipped but you’re still quite right to raise this because certainly it’s not the case for every culture nor has it always been the case for other cultures.

      5. Every other religion follows one formula. Good works (whatever they may be) will out weigh our bad works and earn us favour with our god (whoever we claim he/she to be). In fact even long standing “Christians” sometimes attempt to live out this formula, but we are saved by grace alone – Christianity only stands out vastly different to every other religion. It’s not out of arrogance that Christians teach Christ to be the only way, but out of understanding that mankind cannot outweigh their bad deeds, only Christ can remove them through his perfect life, perfect death and resurrection – no one else has ever done that, no one else ever will. (PS – see if you can find any historical figure who can, with integrity, question the sinlessness of Christ – I have tried to find someone and I can’t. Jesus often claimed to be sinless, if it wasn’t true surely someone could have refuted it!)

      6. For those who never hear of Christ, my opinion (and I’m open minded about this) is that if any person comes to a place where they recognise that they are incapable of dealing with their sin, if they can come to a place that they recognise that they need saving, if they come to a place where they lift their eyes to the heavens and pray for help then I believe in that moment, even if they haven’t ever heard of Jesus they will meet Him. Let’s not forget the sovereignty of God in all of this, it’s not just about us choosing Him, it’s also about Him first choosing us – regardless of our background and culture.

      7. Whatever you or I may think of God’s plan for salvation, whatever our experience of God’s global redeeming grace I can guarantee you one thing…it is bigger!

      Sorry for the long response Jenna, I hope that some of this may have helped, but it’s likely it hasn’t – it is a huge issue to get your head roun.

      I wonder if Reverb1983 has any input here?

  8. reverb1983 permalink

    Jenna, sorry for late reply.

    Hmm, is it just (fair) that different people have a different exposure to the opportunity to know God?

    if the Sun newspaper runs an advert promoting a free DVD with every copy starting tomorrow, is it fair that only someone who sees the advert in the Sun news paper, knows that the offer is coming?

    The offer is open to anyone, absolutely anyone who buys a copy of the Sun the following day gets to have a free DVD. (sounds fair, right?) should they have advertised in the Telegraph or times? should they have run a billboard campaign in the week preceding? While all the Sun readers are told about it before hand I’m not sure that we could class the offer as unfair, it’s still open to everyone!

    I imagine this metaphor doesn’t stand up to much testing.

    So let me suggest this: while the biblical evidence may be sparse, or confusing on this issue, there are simple truths about God that enable me to trust his judgement. He is good, He is kind, slow to anger, rich in love, abounding in mercy. Sacrificing himself/his son not merely to suffering, but beyond death itself to destroy satan/sin and enable our right relationship with Him. This is a God who goes to great lengths to rescue even those that hate him and loves us all like a father.

    I trust that whatever an individuals opportunity to engage with “Christianity” God is infinitely more aware of the fairness, rightness of his judgement, and will judge them according to what is just! And as you suggest, if my two simple options were the entire system then it would be unjust, but God judges justly and wisely and can weigh every relevant element of the “equation”.

    Luke 23 v39-43

    39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

    the bible records no more of the exchange, it doesn’t suggest that between verse 42 and 43, the thief asked for Jesus to come into his heart, sought forgiveness for his sins, declared Jesus to be his Lord and Savior, sang a worship song, prayed the lords prayer or got baptised, etc, yet Jesus hears/sees/knows enough to know he will be in Heaven (Jesus himself specifically may not be the one to determine where the thief will go, but he may know how God will judge him).

    I wonder at the people I will meet in heaven. I believe i will be surprised and humbled, not just because of the huge number of “terrible people” that get in to heaven by professing faith at the last minute on their death bed, but because our loving Gods mercy extends so much wider than we give Him credit for.

    Hope this is helpful. Bless you.

    Reverb

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