Let us pray: Dear Savior, we don’t know exactly why certain things occur in this life. We don’t understand why the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to struggle. We don’t know why Christians often suffer terrible pain via diseases and their heathen neighbors skate along with seemingly wonderful health. Lord, such questions bother us. They raise the issue of fairness in life—fairness as we understand it. Today give us Your answer to these questions and thereby take our questioning spirit away. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS
TEXT: I Peter 2: 19-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Osama bin Laden is now dead. Finally. America has waited ten years to hear that news. Generally, people are breathing a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, last winter Pastor Vern Voss of the WELS was killed in a car accident in the Twin Cities. It came quickly without warning. Little mention of it was broadcast. It seems so unfair, doesn’t it? An evil man’s death makes the news worldwide and a good man’s death barely flickers across the media.
For living, active believers the issue of fairness in life is a big one. It’s a troubling one. It bothers us literally every week. The believing Christian works hard, puts in non-paid overtime and gets taken advantage of. The unbeliever in the same company works hard at not working, wastes time on the job, and gets a raise. It’s so unfair!
Because we’re God’s children and blessings are promised to us, we expect more good health, more wealth, more happiness than the unbeliever. But, since the dawn of time, believers lament: “Why do the wicked prosper?”—and we don’t seem to? And of course, this then leads to a questioning of our faith.
Peter addresses this issue in our lesson in order to pull our heads out of the bucket of feeling sorry for ourselves. And he reminds us that:
ALTHOUGH LIFE ISN’T FAIR, GOD IS!
Because we’re earth-bound we analyze and define our lives mostly by externals. “Am I healthy? Am I wealthy? Am I wise? Do I have children who excel? Am I appreciated in my job? Am I happy as a result of all this?” Also, because we define such externals on the basis of other people and what they seem to have, when non-believers seem to have more external blessings than we do, we feel cheated. We feel that somehow God has let us down. And then jealousy and a certain bitterness grips our soul and causes us to forget about the benefits our faith conveys. Quite frankly, this describes all of us in varying degrees. The injustice of life is hard to take, isn’t it?
St. Peter knew a thing or two about injustice. By the time he wrote this letter, he was an old man. He had suffered being beaten, mocked, and abused because of his faith in Christ. He wasn’t blest with human wealth. Some of his friends had deserted him. And often his efforts to spread the Gospel had been met with disappointment and downright rejection. And yet, he retains the truth and knowledge that God loved him, saved him, and continually blest him. Unlike almost the entire human race, Peter was content inside, where it really counts. He knew that heaven was his in Christ. He knew that this life wasn’t the be-all and end-all of life. He knew that a heart at peace with God was the greatest blessing there was. So, he begins by saying: “It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” In other words, if you lament over life not being fair and don’t let it embitter you as a Christian, that certainly is something to be grateful for. Think of how the unbeliever handles unjust suffering? Unlike you, they let it take control of their lives and thereby it destroys both their lives and their souls.
Now he goes on to say: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” Let’s translate that into modern terms. If a person gets fired for stealing, or goes to prison for assault, or gets fined for cheating on their taxes, or after spending a lifetime scarfing down bacon and then comes down with heart disease and dies earlier than they expected, or loses their house by foreclosure because they were foolish in their borrowing practices—do they really have a right to complain? Likewise, how many of such people openly take responsibility for their predicament and admit: “I deserve it, I was foolish?” Well, you know the answer. Instead, almost all try to shift blame and convince themselves of their own lies. They complain: Life is Unfair. They try to evoke sympathy for their own mistakes. And inner bitterness results.
Meanwhile, by way of contrast, Peter goes on to say: “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Remember who and what the unholy trinity consists of?—The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. In other words, this life and this world are all about unfairness. This world thrives on injustice. And apart from God’s insertion of Christ’s love into it, no human whether rich or poor, healthy or diseased will find true happiness and true peace. For apart from Christ’s forgiving love and faith in Him, nothing is constant and everything can either be lost or taken away. The wicked know that, too. That’s why, unlike you, they connive at keeping what externals they currently have unencumbered by any moral constraints. In short, they are motivated by pure fear.—Even if they seem to hide that fact rather well.
However, Christians are distinctly different. When God sent Christ to be our Savior, He bestowed upon us His timeless love. He inserted forgiveness into a world that needed it but didn’t care about it. His love-tempered justice was to punish human wickedness in Christ. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Do you really think that you’re the only person who has ever exclaimed: “Life isn’t fair?” My friends, everyone thinks it and says it. We do so because it’s true. It’s the every nature of a world at war with God. The real issue is: How do you, how can you handle it, so that it doesn’t embitter you and destroy your soul? And the answer is: through active faith in Jesus Christ. Actively focus on His love for you. Focus upon the forgiveness for all sins that He won on the cross for you. Focus on His rising to a new life, your new life, and then seize that life in faith! Focus upon the blessings you do have instead of the ones you don’t seem to possess. Remember Jesus’ words: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. But having food and clothing, let us be content with that.” Your life is about you, not someone else. It is defined by your relationship with God and recognizing His blessings, not by what someone else has or seems to have. It is about your heart at peace because of Christ’s peace that He gives to you by faith. If you focus on those truths, then you, too, will come to the realization that: ALTHOUGH LIFE ISN’T FAIR, GOD IS! And then you’ll leave it there. Amen