How Should Believers Face a World that is Unfair? <1 Pe 2:18-23>
Prelude: A fearful world will become more selfish. A world that feels lack will become more unfeeling. When we continue to see that there is seemingly no end to the novel coronavirus in the short run, people begin to worry about their jobs and future. In particular, when we also see some chain stores closing, some large companies also begin to lay off workers, fear and lack instinctively grip the hearts of people. Sometimes, even if the real situation is not so bad, with the media continuing to report on this matter, people will more or less be influenced. In fact, when fear and lack fill the world, we will see more and more unfair things happening at the same time. Perhaps some companies may fire employees at will, or take advantage of the situation to cut their salary even before any crisis. During the political campaigns in the past weeks, we also saw that when politicians were competing for votes, they each brought out many subjective and unfair views. Among them, some were accusative, some were defensive, and some also voiced their discontent based on various unfair comments. In such a macro environment, we will inevitably see more and more unjust things happen in the society. In particular, when everyone is facing a dire situation and desperately wants to survive, acts of selfishness and injustice will increase. Therefore, we believers must prepare our hearts. If we encounter unfair treatments in such a situation, how should we face them? In particular, we know that people are most worried about making ends meet. If the whole society enters a crisis, people who are looking for a job or those working in office will enter into a type of unseen competition. Think about it, how should Christians face such pressure and various situations of injustice? If we open our eyes and observe the world today, we will find a trend of people increasingly relying on their own methods to achieve fairness. This is because people begin to discover their own rights and how they can have more power through their network. For example, some people complained to the Ministry of Manpower of any unfair treatment in the office, or they would share the unfairness to the world through the Internet. Some people recorded and uploaded videos reflecting inconsideration or injustice on the Internet. These practices and trends are becoming more common. Therefore, when Christians see that everyone does this, they may also feel that this is a very direct and effective method. But in this matter, we must return to the principles given to us by the Bible. Since the fall of man due to sin, God said to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” <Gen 3:16>. Since then, unequal relations and unfair things gradually extend all over the world. Therefore, we have to ask two questions. First, are things only unfair now? Second, does it mean that we can achieve fairness on our own because we have more rights and means today? Of course, we Christians are not cowards. We should also apply the privileges the Lord has given us when necessary. God has also set some principles in the world so that the world can operate under some of these basic principles. For example: Last week we mentioned that both governing authority and system have the function of meting rewards and punishments. But a Christian who believes that God is absolutely righteous, must first of all be convinced that in every unfair matter, the Lord is sovereign and will avenge us. His works are unfathomable and the people of the world would also not understand. Since we believe in Him, we should also seek His instructions on how to face all unfairness on earth. In this way, we not only achieve ultimate fairness, but are also able to spread the virtues of Christ the Lord.
1. No one has gone through more unjust treatment than our Lord Jesus Christ
1）What is fairness?
When we talk about fairness, everyone has their own definition of fairness. Some people think that fairness is to be compensated for their losses, or to be rewarded for their efforts. But concerning how much should be compensated or rewarded, everyone has different demands. A person may be severely hurt by another person, such that he suffers mental trauma, how should he be compensated? Is it with money? How much to compensate? Some people say that monetary compensation is not enough, that person should be imprisoned, then they can let it go in their heart. Thus, the compensation demanded by everyone is different, because everyone’s heart is different. Therefore, we know that the fairness that everyone wants is also relative. If we demand perfect fairness, that will be based on the fairness of God’s law, which is the compensation of a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Think about how terrifying such a view of fairness is. Because by the law, all those with sin must bear the punishment brought by sin, and the wages of sin is death. Hence, we know that to talk about fairness without love and mercy, that is something very scary. In this sinful world, that will only bring about more sins and more injustice. Therefore, those who often advocate for fairness in everything will certainly slowly lose human love. Thus, the Lord said in <Mt 5:40-41>, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” At first, this seems to be unfair, but it is in fact achieving fairness through love. But who can do this? Sometimes, it is not just that the society lacks such idea, but even the church also lacks such grace.
2）Thus, all unfairness had been borne by our Lord Jesus Christ
When this world cannot achieve fairness and continues to pay an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Christ the Lord bore all the sins of the people of the world. The Bible says He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. He did not complain nor defend Himself when He suffered injustice. This is because He wanted to pay the debts of sin for His people. Indeed, we all go through some unfair treatment due to our sins, only Christ the Lord suffered the most unfair treatment even though He is without sin. Yet, despite this, He left us with His example and attitude of undergoing suffering, so that when we suffer all kinds of unfairness, we can also have the same attitude and emulate Him.
3）How did Christ go through unfairness?
The Bible says, “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.” Actually, when we encounter unfairness, we must believe there is a God who judges justly. God never puts the judgment of justice completely in the hands of humans, because we humans are not perfectly righteous. Even if human laws and judgment have relative righteousness, yet because those come from sinful humans and are judgment by sinful people, it cannot bring humans complete justice. Therefore, when even the most righteous Son of God also entrusted the judgment to Father, why can’t we commit our grievances to the Lord? Thus, <Ro 12:19> says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
2. Face unfairness with the righteousness which Christ the Lord has given us
1）There is bound to be unfairness
The Bible instructs servants that in their reverent fear of God, they should submit themselves to their masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. Generally, we have no problem submitting to a good and considerate boss in the office, it is also not difficult for servants to submit to such a master. However, the Bible clearly tells us that there can be harsh people who are above us. Harsh refers to masters who are overbearing, unreasonable, emotional. In our work life, it is possible to encounter such superiors, just as during the early church era, it was possible for Christian slaves to encounter harsh masters. Even if we have done well, they may also not treat us nicely. Thus, we may easily feel it is unfair.
2）Conscience can be conscious of God
When we face unfairness, our hearts will surely be stirred, sometimes we will feel aggrieved, sometimes helpless. Thus, many curses and thoughts of the flesh will come. Just as when a person is not being appreciated in the company, or he is wrongfully blamed, he will start to have the heart of repaying a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. For example: If not appreciated by the company, he may tell himself not to serve this company anymore. If unable to receive help from his colleague, he may tell himself that he should not help this particular colleague too when he is in trouble in future. This seems to be common human nature. But at this moment, our conscience, which has been cleansed by the Lord’s precious blood and the truth, will intervene. Our conscience will tell us that the heart and approaches which bear grudges and which are aggrieved is not the Lord’s example, it is also not the Bible’s teaching. In fact, over here, the Bible clearly reveals a very important truth, which is, a conscience which can be conscious of the Lord is more important than receiving temporal justice. If our conscience is rebuked, even if we get the justice we fight for, that will not make us love God and men more, but instead, it will make us more self-righteous and self-reliant. Some people have been depending on their limited intelligence for their whole life, to fight for their rights and benefits, but they never ask if their conscience can be conscious of the Lord.
3）Be a life which is commended by the Lord
When we encounter unfairness, the Bible does not first point us to how to obtain justice, but points us to a life which is pleasing to the Lord. Indeed, a life which is pleasing to the Lord will not be put to shame. The Bible says, “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” Indeed, if we are shoddy at work because of laziness or if we speak ill of our superior behind his back because we are aggrieved, such that we cannot receive commendation from man, this is only natural principle. Some people fall into a kind of vicious cycle because of this. They think that the whole world has let them down, but they never see that their own lives are also living continuously in a state which is not pleasing to the Lord. But the Lord says, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” Think about it, which great character of the Bible did not suffer for doing good? Joseph was framed by his brothers, falsely accused by his mistress and forgotten by the cupbearer, but in all these the Lord tested him, and brought him to the position of ruler of Egypt. David was pursued by Saul for many years, even after he let Saul off, it also could not change Saul’s mind, was this not a means of God testing David and preparing him to be the king of Israel? And were Daniel and his three friends not constantly framed by evil men, but yet they had lived uprightly before the Lord, such that they eventually won the recognition of the king? Even though great empires can wane, yet a person who is commended by God, especially because he suffers for doing good and can endure it, he will surely be rewarded.
4）Ultimately, look to Christ who had suffered for us
Only Christ is sinless, but He obeyed Father and because of His love for us, endured the most unfair treatment. He showed us the glory and endurance of submission, so that we can imitate Him willingly because we believe in Him. In fact, only by Christ suffering for us can we have a born-again life, so that we who believe in Him no longer live for ourselves but for the Lord. Think about it, why can’t a person get over injustice? That is not related to his magnanimity. Of course, some people encountered unfairness, but because they are magnanimous, they can easily let it go, while some are more sensitive and cannot get over it. However, what is most critical is still whether we have a life which can carry our own cross to follow the Lord. In fact, this entire Bible passage does not appear wise to someone who still wants to live for himself. His heart will question, “Why must I share in Christ’s sufferings just because Christ suffered?” But to a person who is born again in Christ, he sees the glory of the sinless Lord suffering on behalf of sinners, thus he acknowledges that if we share in Christ’s sufferings, we may also share in His glory <Ro 8:17>. Only such a person will first seek a heart which imitates Christ when he encounters something unfair.
3. Even in an unjust macro-environment, God’s hidden love and wisdom is present
1）God promises that He will not abandon the saints He loves
<Deut 31:8>: The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged; <Ro 8:37> No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. These verses clearly tell us God’s mercy is greater than the injustice we encounter. If we confirm and seek, we will see this. Ask yourself, is there anyone in the Bible who relied on God but suffered unfair treatment always? Actually, God is always watching over His people, helping them seek redress. Some people received God’s help in their suffering, some saw God’s greater blessing after suffering some injustice. Others saw how God used unfair things to refine and warn them, so that the evil one does not have a foothold. We would probably all have experienced unfair things in school when we were younger, and when we went home and lamented to our parents, they would give us comfort and compassion. Our heavenly Father will similarly have compassion on us <Ps 103:13>.
2）When encountering unfairness, must ask God for more endurance and wisdom
When we encounter unfairness, it is also the time we need to ask for a heart of righteousness and wisdom. If we only feel indignant, we will not see that many others are experiencing the same. In this election, we see many people with opinions on the system are grumbling based on their own situation, but very few can speak for those at different social status or with different needs. When we are feeling indignant, we will easily feel others are taking advantage of us, but we must also think of whether we have taken advantage of others. For example, when others use our church sermons and music accompaniment for their own use, we perhaps should think of how we have also used other people’s works. Therefore, unfairness teaches us not just to look at whether we are victims or disadvantaged, but instead we must reflect, and treat others differently, or try to also consider more about others’ difficulties. Especially, we must be careful not to let the indignant heart occupy us, causing us to be blind to our own flaws. Many people often think their company did not pay them what they deserve, but they did not realise that they have not contributed much to the company. Therefore, a person with righteousness and wisdom will know how to look at the whole picture objectively. He will not only have thorough consideration, but will also consider everyone’s situation. Of course, we cannot say that if we have thorough consideration, we have to only come from the angle of compassion. If so, we are always accommodating, but have no principles. If that is the case, we will swing to the other extreme, resulting in more unfairness. In sum, we must seek the holistic view given by the Holy Spirit through the truth.
3）If possible, we can choose to walk out of an unfair situation with clear conscience
The Bible does not command us to endure unfair treatment needlessly. God can help us receive justice from the law, media, human rights, etc, of a civilized society. However, we must be careful when we use these channels for justice, and check our own conscience clearly. If we go with a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, that will surely not please God. If we are unfairly treated in a job, we can change a job or department. However, we must go through prayers, and try as much as possible to remove all subjectivity in the issue. If we can put ourselves in the shoes of the company or management, then our perspective and judgment is righteous. If not, we are just doing it for our own gain, so that may not be considered a righteous thing. If we can continuously reflect upon this, and in all things seek a clear conscience, we will be a person who fears God and has wisdom.