Faithlife
Faithlife

When You Believe in God But Don't Think He's Fair

Christian Atheist  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts

Series Review

We are continuing our series on The Christian Atheist. Read chapter 5!!!
causes related to free will; hurt by someone else’s evil or irresponsible actions; still, why did God protect one person but not the other? sickness: e.g. Died from a lifestyle of abusing alcohol, drugs or unhealthy food; If I had known I was going to live longer, I would have taken better care of myself; (smoker, drinker, partier) - why does god allow one person to receive the consequences of their choices, while another gets off the hook? sickness that can be traced to environmental issues - the air we breathe or the type of work we do; things like this are painful, but I am at a place where I can say, these are not things that we can lay at the feet of God - these have their roots in human action;
A contradiction in terms? We would hope so, but can we honestly say that the 90% of the population who believe there is a god, act that way? I’m not here to judge anyone: but I include myself in that 90% who believes in god and yet struggles to live that way. Last week - we looked at the difference between believing their is a god, and knowing God. Today we’re looking one of the causes of Christian atheism: We don’t always think God is fair.
I can’t always say that: 1) Children. They are vulnerable. Innocent. All of the Scripture and reasoning in the world can’t help me when I’ve done a funeral for an infant. Where is the justice in that? 2) Today is a timely message because of what has happened in Texas and Florida. Our science text books can explain how the movement of the earth produces friction, which creates energy that is drawn to earth by gravitational forces. There is no free will in any of that. It’s hard to look at the devastation of the homes and see God’s justice in action.
It’s hard to read about repressive dictators who live in luxury while the population they rule are starving to death. God, where is your justice?
Jeremiah 12:1 NIV
You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Sermon Introduction

A few years ago I was at a playground with some of our kids. I noticed a couple of boys that were harassing a little girl. I don’t know if they were related to her, or knew her, but I saw them follow her around, make fun of her clothes, her hair, and call her names like ‘stupid.’ I noticed that I was feeling angry. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like to see the strong try to exercise their power at someone else’s expense. I was also wondering why the parents had not intervened.
One of the boys grabbed the girl by the hair, and pulled it. I could see the girl holding her head and she started to cry. Then she shocked everyone on the playground. She began to punch the boy that pulled her hair. I’m talking about some serious blows to the body. The boy tripped and fell to the ground and she kicked him a few times. Now it was the boy who was in tears.
Then the parents finally noticed something was wrong. They pulled the girl away, the boy received comfort from his mother, the parents received a false account of what happened by the other boys, while the girl received a harsh, loud scolding. Was any of this fair?
Did the girl deserve to be bullied? Did the boy deserve to be beaten and humiliated? Did the boy deserve sympathy and comfort? Did the girl deserve to be punished? Or, why did I play the role of the distant spectator? Why didn’t I intervene? Why wasn’t I a force for justice?
“I believe in God, but I don’t think he’s fair.” “I believe in God, but why doesn’t he intervene and protect the innocent and punish the wicked? These are the types of questions we are asking this morning, as you read through the book, The Christian Atheist, and as you gather with a group.
Chances are, this isn’t the first time you’ve asked this, because life isn’t fair. The wicked prosper. Good people suffer for no obvious reason. It was hard for me to choose a Scripture passage for today: not because it is hard to find an example of God not being fair, but because there are so many to choose from. Just look at :
Jeremiah 12:1 NIV
You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
Prophets, priests and kings did not hesitate to bring their complaints before God. Because they continually saw injustice. They constantly said to God, “That’s not fair.”
If you have this expectation of God always meeting our criteria for fairness, you did not get it from the Bible. God delivered his people from slavery. But what about the 4 generations of people who experienced the misery of slavery for over 4 generations. So many examples to choose from, both in the Bible and today.
This morning I chose John chapter 9, and the story of the man born blind. Here the Word of the Lord:
John 9:1–12 NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
This is the Gospel of our Lord. Thanks be to God.
This is only a portion of the story - the story continues for another 30 verses. But this morning I want us to look at how Jesus address the question: why do people suffer for no apparent reason? Is this even fair? Is there any divine purpose in suffering and evil? I want us to look at how Jesus addresses these questions. I want to draw out 3 lessons in this story that can help us when we can’t get past the fact that God doesn’t seem fair.

1. Be careful when drawing conclusions about suffering.

John 9:2 NIV
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The answer Jesus gives is “neither.” But notice here an assumption that has already been made. There’s no question in the disciple’s mind - and probably everyone else’s - that this man was born blind because of sin. Now was it his, or his parents, we’re just not sure. But we know that God did it.
Have you ever looked at someone else’s tragedy or suffering and came to the conclusion that apparently God is punishing them? With the exception of what I consider to be religious extremism, I don’t hear a lot of people making a connection between hurricanes and God’s judgment upon a wicked city.
However, I have heard people draw conclusions about my own suffering. “God must be punishing me for…” “God, why do you hate me?” Or, “God, that’s not fair.” I’ve heard these and I’ve made these comments. These are not just questions, they are conclusions. They are conclusions that we are not qualified to make.
Job 38:4 NIV
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
This poor blind man. As if being blind didn’t come with enough baggage for him and his family, not being able to go anywhere without being led by the hand, much less earn income. His parents with no hope of economic security in their old age. But his religious community has already made a conclusion as to why this has happened.
Yes, we read in Scripture that suffering is a form of punishment. We also read that suffering is the result someone else’s evil. We also read that God allows evil for a higher purpose. Sometimes we get to see that purpose, sometimes we don’t. What I’m saying is, it’s okay to ask the question: “God, why are you doing this?” Or, “God, why are you allowing this?” But there’s a huge difference between a question and a conclusions we aren’t qualified to make.
themselves, is God punishing me? Does God not love me? I’ve wondered the same thing when I’ve suffered.
There is a difference between a question and a conclusion.
When I lived in Frederick, there was a fatal car accident that made local headlines: a family of 5 being hit by a drunk driver. The father was a pastor. There was no miracle, only a story of a drunk driver walking away with minor injuries, while the family died on site, the congregation was left working through this devastation.
the questions we ask (for some excuses?)
Where’s the fairness in that?
I can’t always say that: 1) Children. They are vulnerable. Innocent. All of the Scripture and reasoning in the world can’t help me when I’ve done a funeral for an infant. Where is the justice in that? 2) Today is a timely message because of what has happened in Texas and Florida. Our science text books can explain how the movement of the earth produces friction, which creates energy that is drawn to earth by gravitational forces. There is no free will in any of that. It’s hard to look at the devastation of the homes and see God’s justice in action.
It’s hard to read about repressive dictators who live in luxury while the population they rule are starving to death. God, where is your justice?
Economic - access to employment, sustained by parents, no support for parents in their old age; a situation that exists today, but even worse then.
Social - I remember a girl in high school who was diagnosed with arthritis. I would see her struggling every morning to get up the stairs - there were no elevators then. I would also notice her sitting on the sidelines during PE, sitting alone during lunch. Her disability had marginalized her.
Religious - drawing conclusions about their suffering - sin.
John 9:1–12 NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
Social - I remember a girl in high school who was diagnosed with arthritis. I would see her struggling every morning to get up the stairs - there were no elevators then. I would also notice her sitting on the sidelines during PE, sitting alone during lunch. Her disability had marginalized her.
Economic - access to employment, sustained by parents, no support for parents in their old age; a situation that exists today, but even worse then.
Social - I remember a girl in high school who was diagnosed with arthritis. I would see her struggling every morning to get up the stairs - there were no elevators then. I would also notice her sitting on the sidelines during PE, sitting alone during lunch. Her disability had marginalized her.
Religious - drawing conclusions about their suffering - sin.
Trying to figure it out - it might be because of free will, but we still ask God, why didn’t you protect me? Trust in the God who is all wise and all powerful. Whose ways we will never fully understand.
John 9:2 NIV
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Trying to figure it out - it might be because of free will, but we still ask God, why didn’t you protect me? Trust in the God who is all wise and all powerful. Whose ways we will never fully understand.
Job 38:4 NIV
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Job 28:
s
flood - body of Christ; 911 - packed full for a barely publicized prayer meeting;
method of healing - spit on mud? spit was thought by many Jews and other ancient near eastern cultures to contain pollutants; add to the fact that magicians, illusionists of the day would use spit to display their magic powers, Jews were already suspicious of the practice.

2. Suffering produces skepticism.

John 9:8–9 NIV
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
John 9:
Have you ever met a skeptic? There are all sorts of reasons why someone would reject Christianity. (rejection of supernatural; corruption, hypocrisy in the church; teachings are too hard to accept - there is another source of skepticism today, and it doesn’t just affect non-Christians. It’s the skepticism that comes from suffering.
Jesus is not just displaying power, but he’s displaying authority. Authority over religious tradition, rules.
Jesus is not just displaying power, but he’s displaying authority. Authority over religious tradition, rules.
Jesus is not just displaying power, but he’s displaying authority. Authority over religious tradition, rules.
causes related to free will; hurt by someone else’s evil or irresponsible actions; still, why did God protect one person but not the other? sickness: e.g. Died from a lifestyle of abusing alcohol, drugs or unhealthy food; If I had known I was going to live longer, I would have taken better care of myself; (smoker, drinker, partier) - why does god allow one person to receive the consequences of their choices, while another gets off the hook? sickness that can be traced to environmental issues - the air we breathe or the type of work we do; things like this are painful, but I am at a place where I can say, these are not things that we can lay at the feet of God - these have their roots in human action;
I can’t always say that: 1) Children. They are vulnerable. Innocent. All of the Scripture and reasoning in the world can’t help me when I’ve done a funeral for an infant. Where is the justice in that? 2) Today is a timely message because of what has happened in Texas and Florida. Our science text books can explain how the movement of the earth produces friction, which creates energy that is drawn to earth by gravitational forces. There is no free will in any of that. It’s hard to look at the devastation of the homes and see God’s justice in action.
It’s hard to preach the Gospel at a funeral for an infant, and it can be hard to find divine justice or purpose in a natural tragedy.
I said earlier that there is nothing wrong with asking the hard questions: Why do cruel dictators go unpunished? What purpose is there in the death of a child? Why do you not protect the people on the coast who have no resources to turn to?
There’s a difference between asking those questions and drawing the conclusion that God is not fair.
Anytime a miracle takes place, both the believers and the skeptics will speak up and make their voices heard. Notice the skepticism in this story: the skeptics don’t seem to notice that the man has been healed - is this really the blind man? The religious leaders continued to insist that the man was steeped in sin at birth and threw him out of church.
ex. infant in car seat. “It’s a miracle he survived.” “The dad was reckless.” The glory was given to the company that manufactured the car seat (I’m going to get that name brand.)
Notice the skepticism in this story: what is not said in this part of the story: no one seems to really care that this man has been healed.
John 9:34 NIV
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Even for Christians, suffering can make us skeptical to the point that when a miracle happens, we can’t see it for what it is; I call this Christian skepticism.
skeptical to the point that when a miracle happens, they can’t see it for what it is; their view of God has been shaped by the suffering;
what makes people skeptical? seeing enough suffering that it shapes your view of God; the world is not fair, therefore God is not fair;
a Christian skeptic?
method of healing - spit on mud? spit was thought by many Jews and other ancient near eastern cultures to contain pollutants; add to the fact that magicians, illusionists of the day would use spit to display their magic powers, Jews were already suspicious of the practice.
John 9:34 NIV
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
John 9:

3. Suffering brings people to Christ.

John 9:38 NIV
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
John 9:
This is not some pious way to say, “Keep on the sunny side,” or “Look for the silver lining.” I’m saying that when we begin to doubt God’s goodness, or think he’s not fair, remember that suffering can make us bitter and skeptical, but suffering can also transform lives and societies.
China is a great place for tourism, but it’s also a repressive government when it comes to religion. I’ve heard of Christians trying to smuggle Bibles into Chinese villages - you can buy them in your average bookstore in China. Religion in general is allowed, but it is heavily regulated. (ex.) You violate these regulations there are severe penalties.
state instituted church v. underground church
the church has grown as a result of their suffering; the church continues to grow;
Our story is about suffering and our inability to understand why God allows this. We are only told that God allows this so that His glory can be revealed. His healing did more than just give him sight - his knowledge of Christ was not going to be a thing of the past - he worshipped Christ and followed him. His life was transformed. And Christ was glorified.
His healing did more than just give him sight - his knowledge of Christ was not going to be a thing of the past - he worshipped Christ and followed him.
Jesus is not just displaying power, but he’s displaying authority. Authority over religious tradition, rules.
His healing did more than just give him sight - his knowledge of Christ was not going to be a thing of the past - he worshipped Christ and followed him.
When we see or experience suffering and question the fairness of God - we eventually end up in 2 places: 1) We can allow ourselves to become skeptical. 2) We can trust God that somehow God uses suffering to bring us closer to Christ.
If you believe in God, but don’t think he’s fair - are you looking at the suffering around you (or in you) and allowing your suffering to define who God is?
or are you seeking God in the midst of suffering?
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