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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is God Fair?

"Strict justice is fair, but forgiveness is not."

A wonderful book I am reading right now, written by Father R. Scott Hurd, deals with the concept of forgiveness from a Catholic perspective.

I chose this book because of the family problems currently being dealt with by all of us.  I know that I need to actively forgive that person causing us so much pain and sorrow right now, but I also know that wanting to forgive is only the first step towards actually DOING it and that I needed some guidance and help.

As a Catholic, forgiveness is something I have been schooled in my entire life.  I know that all of us had to be saved/forgiven by the merits of Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross and that the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation is designed to help people like me walk towards eternity in heaven.  I know that purgatory is a gift from my Creator - a chance to purge myself of all those earthly attachments and clear whatever temporal punishment for my earthly sins - so that I may enter into the Kingdom and love and worship Him forever.

However, as an alcoholic, and a sinful woman, I also know I have a tendency to hold grudges, to want justice, to see those who have hurt me and mine hurt just as well.  This is my problem, this is one of my character defects.  And so, when handed a situation like the one I am dealing with now, I may KNOW what I have to do but struggle with DOING IT - and so I ask for help.

The good Father raises an interesting point in Chapter 3 of his book:  fairness.  Don't we all want life to be fair, and rail against the unfairness that seems to surround us?  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Good things seem to happen to bad people while those who love and honor God, who keep their vows and put others first seem to have problem after problem thrown their way.  Children die of cancer.  Favorite pets die at the wrong moment.  We lose jobs and those we love walk away from us. Houses burn down.  Bad stuff seems to happen all around us.

There are natural disasters and man-made wars.  People who worship God differently that we do think we need to be wiped off the face of the earth as a way to honor that God.

None of it seems fair, does it?  And none of it seems to prove that God is loving and merciful, for if He was how could He let these things happen?  WHY would He let these things happen?  Why does God allow evil into the world?

Let's look at it from a different perspective.

Starting from the premise that God is all-knowing, all-powerful and of infinite mercy and love, we are talking about a standard that is far beyond our understanding.  The finite mind of a creature cannot, by definition, comprehend the infinite mind of the Creator.  So for us, when we try to comprehend the work and workings of God, we can only judge Him (and His actions, His works) by OUR understanding.  And so, we look at the unfairness in the world and we think, "Surely, if God loves us as our Faith teaches, then He is fair.  It is to Him we must turn to for the justice, for the fairness, we seek".

And time after time if appears, on the surface, that we are disappointed.

Father Hurd writes:, "Yet God isn't fair.  That is because there's a difference between what we might call human fairness, or human justice, and the justice of God".

What is the justice of God?

Father quotes from the Liturgy of the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time:

The perfection of Justice is found in [God's] love.

God's justice, therefore, is intertwined with God's love and LOVE isn't about getting what we think we deserve, or evening the score or making sure that everyone has exactly the same as everyone else.  God's Love is about the giving of oneself entirely to others just as He did for us on the Cross.   In fact, true love does not count the cost - true love just, well, LOVES.

God's justice, therefore, is always tempered by God's mercy - because more important than justice is love. 

God asks me to love as He loves. Jesus reminds me that I am to strive to be 'perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect' and I have to strive for this even though I know, I will always know, that I will NEVER achieve that perfection without God's love - and probably not until I hear those words, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Welcome into the Kingdom.  Welcome home".

What I know is this:  I have not been given what I deserve.  The life I lead when I was drinking was one of mortal sin: promiscuity, drug use, alcohol abuse, thievery, murder.  If God had not forgiven me, had not showered me with the grace I need to walk each day sober and with my head held high in dignity, I would have nothing to look forward to but eternity in torment.  If He gave me justice, strict justice, instead of forgiveness and mercy, I would not be alive right now.

So I guess the answer to my question, Is God Fair?, is No, He isn't...He forgives those who do not deserve to be forgiven and that is what He expects those who follow Him to do as well.

God is not fair - and I am so grateful!!!!


Father Scott Hurd said...

Dear Leslie K-

Thanks for the kind words about the book! I thank God that it has been helpful for you.


Father Scott Hurd

Leslie K. said...

Thank YOU, Father. I am still reading and I intend to have the children read it through with me when I am done. Thank you for your work and for your blessings and PLEASE keep my family in prayer!