Friday, November 4, 2016

Is God fair?

Last night we had a good discussion at one of our church small groups. It was about the fairness of God, or not. Does God love everyone the same? Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet was considered as a source. Ezekiel 1 - 24 are directed against Israel and lay out the judgment of God because of their faithlessness in brutal and particular detail. Chapters 33-48 are about the restoration of Israel and the future fellowship God's People will enjoy with God. Those in-between chapters focus on Israel's enemies and how they will be judged for their actions against Israel. They will be judged not for their religious sins like Israel but for their hostility to Israel. Moab delighted in God's judgment of Israel - see, they are not so special after all - and for that they will be crushed. Robert Jenson, in his commentary, suggests the Targum translation where Moab asks, "Why should those of the house of Judah fare differently from all the other nations?" Jenson goes on to make this point, "The root of the world's inveterate and pervasive anti - Semitism has always been and still is offense at the claim that the one who is supposed to be the God of us all has a special love and purpose for some of us, for this particular people. This particular love has made some Christians uncomfortable so they have said that the Church is the New Israel; it has superseded the old Israel and there is no longer any special status of the Jewish people (this is not referring to the politics of the nation of Israel).

No one likes favorites or those who play favorites. That has been Israel's burden.

Christians have used the idea of election as a way to mark off God's love. "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated" the Bible says (this is an unfortunate translation given our understanding of love as an emotion. Better is Goldingay's, "I dedicated myself to Jacob and acted against Esau") so the conclusion was reached that God loves some and saves them and rejects others. Christians are God's chosen people today like Israel in the Old Testament.

But God's purposes for Jacob and Esau were separate with different choices and  God loved and chose both. His love is always particular. It is not the same because individuals are not the same. And in the case of Jacob and Esau, God preferred one over the other for his purposes with Israel. The Bible is clear that God is free to make choices as God did with Saul and David. That God's love chooses does not make it unfair even though it often seems so. God's choice in the short term may result in long term benefits. Goldingay again, "This does not imply that Israel ever ceases to be God's first love but it could imply that other peoples could be equally loved in their own way."

No comments:

Post a Comment