When Life Isn't Fair

We do not live long before the experiences common to all become our experiences. We soon protest as children, "That's not fair." We throughout our lives realize that life is not fair. "Why me?" is a common question. Illustration: In contrast, I rather like the story of the highway patrolman, interviewed after he worked the auto accident in which his son was killed, said he found himself asking, "why not me?"

Sooner of later we come face to face with the inequities of our society, our world.

  • 1. "I should have seen it coming," Ann Landers column about a woman with marital problems.
  • 2. Abuse issues, women in prison trying to escape cycle of abuse
  • 3. Prison work, convicted, but only an accomplice, and the other guilty party, with primary responsibility is free.
  • 4. Untimely death, disease, tragedies, senselessness of life.
  • 5. Cancers, unexplained illness, auto accidents

    When we think of the story of Scripture, we can multiply illustrations.

  • 1. Adam and Eve--garden
  • 2. Adam and Eve--Cain, Abel's death
  • 3. Abram and Sarah--no children
  • 4. Lot
  • 5. Esau
  • 6. Rebekah
  • 7. Jacob-Laban
  • 8. Joseph (and that's just a few of the more familiar stories throughout Genesis)
  • 9. Moses, when Israel complained, when confronted by his brother and sister
  • 10. Moses--not allowed to enter promised land

    Why doesn't God do something? Of course, he was doing something. Precisely! Oppression by foreign tribes during the times of the judges, Naomi and Ruth, Hannah and Samuel, the united kingdom under Saul, David, Solomon; then the kings of the divided kingdom, into captivity, words from the prophets
    As the Hebrews writer so eloquently puts it: "Time does not allow us...."

    Yet we have not arrived at the greatest travesty, greatest injustice, for that was crucifixion on Jesus Christ on the cross. No justice was there. 2 Cor. 5:20-21; 1 Pet 2:21ff. He gave himself, Gal. 1:4, with no cause for offense.

    When we know the Bible, we know life never has been fair in this-worldly terms. Solomon said, there is an evil under the sun. I am certain you can multiply illustrations from your own life....Financial disasters...Family disasters...Job loss...Divorce, separations, abuse...Wars, death, fightings, strivings.... Few are the lives that have never been touched by life's buffetings.

    What shall we say when life isn't fair? Is there a word from God? Yes! In fact, an entire book of the Bible was written to God's people in a time of suffering--1 Peter. Scholars have faced a little problem identifying precisely the principal theme of this little letter. There are clear references to a time of suffering and persecution. Yet in the midst of the refining process, there is hope of glory, praise and honor, the claim and challenge of pilgrimage on this earth, admonition to courage, and an obvious focus on the grace of God as power to overcome (5:12). A series of imperatives runs through the book, guidelines for life in Christ.

    God's true grace is best seen in the daily gifts of life, the gifts for Christian living. I want today that we might know a little better this first book of Peter so we might deal with the fact that "life is not fair."

    The Text
    A quick survey of the first chapter and a half shows the context--living hope through resurrection, inheritance, shielded by God's power, rejoicing despite grief, trials, refining fire, sufferings, you are strangers, redeemed, yet with hope, perishable yet imperishable. Amidst stumbling and falling and disobedience, as aliens and strangers: 2:11-12, where is our anchor?

  • It is first in the identity of God (1:3-12). What we know.
  • It is second in our own identity as life (1:13-2:10). How we live.

    These two great concepts are introduced systematically, slowly, unhurriedly, almost ploddingly, to set the stage for the central focus. The hinge in 2:11-12 is both the summary of the preceding sections and the springboard for application.

    This is a world of hurt. What is the solution? Arch our back, anger, try harder. No, the answer is in the connections between submission, suffering, and sanctity. It is in the nature of our world. It is the power of sin at work in our world. It is foundation for the necessity of living separated lives.

    To whom does this apply? To citizens, slaves, Christ, husbands and wives, families, all. This sequence is followed by an excursus on suffering in 3:13-22. Suffering is only overcome by sanctity (3:15), submission, and separation.
    This outline places 4:10-11 at the center. Be holy.
    The symmetry of the section demands another excursus on suffering in 4:12-19, followed by more submission texts. Elders, even elders, youth, all (5:6-7).
    As the book rapidly draws to a close, the identity of Satan, humanity and God are again reviewed briefly.

    Here is the drawing.

    God's identity, 1:3-12
    Our identity and life, 2:13-2:10
    	Submission by citizens --
    		-- slaves --
    			-- Christ--  
    							[excursus on suffering, 3:13-22]
    								BE HOLY, 4:1-11
    							[excursus on suffering, 4:12-19]
    						-- All --
    				-- Youth --
    	Submission by elders --
    Satan's identity
    Our identity
    God's identity

    I want to look specifically at a few sections of 1 Peter to see how we might deal effectively with the injustices and inequities of life.

    I. Consider our RESPONSE to life's injustices.
    When we note that injustices are a function of our physical existence in this physical world. When unjust suffering comes....

  • We can respond with submission-respect authority-do good-live as free- serve God.
  • We can respond knowing God's power is our resource.
  • We can submit to God...to others...to one another.

    Remember, life is not fair...

  • Submit to governments.
  • Submit to employers, insensitive bosses, unreal demands, slaves to masters. When marriages are flawed....
  • Submit to spouses. Build marriages on the foundation of mutual submission. Sarah called her husband "Lord." Husbands, live according to knowledge, really know your wife.
  • My parents just don't understand, live submissively as to God.
  • Teachers demand too much. Live submissively.
  • Respond to life's injustices submissively.

    All accounts not evened in this life. Life not supposed to be fair. Live in biased, torqued world that is not our home. Ultimately, we not made for this world. Respond to this-worldly injustice with other- worldly resources.

    II. Consider the RESULT of life's injustices.
    Almost incredibly, the result is not always evil.
    Christ suffered, and thus freed us from sin, 2:21-25; 3:18ff.
    The result depends upon our response. Will we respond as Christ did, or respond as world teaches us to respond?
    Will we get even, or let vengeance belong to God?
    When world pushes, will we push back or turn the other cheek?
    Remember Christ's response to injustice has brought blessing to generations.
    We will never eliminate life's injustices, but we can find resolution.

  • Resolve as noun means a commitment to act.
  • Resolve as verb means to take care of.
  • One can find genuine resolution in a logic and life that match, creed and conduct, doctrine and duty, preaching and practice.

    This result depends upon whether we are content with reaction or seek renewal. The world encourages reaction, self-defense, self-elevation. Stand up for rights, get own way, don't get pushed around. But we can hear the biblical text written to people facing much sorer troubles than do we (4:1ff)... The admonition is to holiness.

  • Arm yourselves, be done with sin, even as Jesus conquered sin
  • Live according to God with regard to spiritual things
  • Be clear minded, self-controlled
  • Live a certain kind of exemplary life that all may see

    Will that solve our suffering problem? Will this get rid of the injustice, suffering, inequities? No. We will still suffer, but the time is coming... 4:19 says it all.

    III. Finally, consider our RESOURCES in the face of suffering.
    Leaders who trust in God are dedicated to service, examples, submitting to the Chief Shepherd. God gave us leaders as a great resource. Shepherds in touch with the sheep. I mentioned in Wednesday's class, an elder who had been present over 1000 consecutive Sundays in the church he shepherded. Vacations cut short one day to get home on Saturday evening. All night drives after difficult business trips. Loyalty. We are resources for one another.
    Seek humility. Depend upon God.
    1 Peter 4:6, in due time.... This text reminds of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount. Today is all you have, all you can handle, all you need.

    In 1 Peter 5:8-10--the God of all grace, the one who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little, will adjust you/fix you up, confirm, strengthen, found you/ground you.

    Indeed, life isn't fair. Solomon knew. Job knew. Countless saints of God have known. You know. I know. There is an evil under the sun--good men receive evil, evil men receive good. Life is not fair. But....

  • We can choose our response.
  • We will respond most properly when we consider the results.
  • Finally, we must use the resources God places in our hands.

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    Last updated March 20, 2005.