Monday, January 08, 2007

The UnFair Gospel

This past Wednesday I began teaching some of the children (K – 6) in our mid-week church service in the role of bible instructor. Even though I do teach adults and kids at different times, this was going to be very different for me. You see, this children’s program has been setup to have 3 “stations” where the kids rotate throughout the course of the evening. My station is set to be a time for prayer and a chance for the children to “ask anything” about anything related to God, the Bible, life, or almost anything at all.

Having worked with children before, I know that kids can ask really good questions that totally catch me off guard. Knowing this, I tried to be prepared for it, but I received questions from “Why do Americans care about popularity when we say that we believe that all men are created equal?” to “Why does God allow sin to exist?” With these (as well as others) questions, I started off by attempting to answer the question by finding out the reason for the question (i.e. what motivated this question from this child), answering that question, and finally moving into some biblical truth or principle that we can learn from looking at this question and the issues that are raised by it.

The best question of the evening was from a little boy who must be no older than 7 or 8. His question was, basically, “Why is life not fair?” His reason for the question came from a recent event at school where his class had watched a video, but the teacher had told the class that they’d get an extra break during the video. Well, they didn’t get the extra break because they ran out of time. He was upset and didn’t understand why his teacher would say one thing and not deliver on it. I totally understood his disappointment, so I tried to explain that his teacher probably meant to give them another break, but because they ran out of time watching the video, the teacher couldn’t follow through. I then asked him if he would rather have had regular class with an extra break or if he would have rather watched the movie. To that, he smiled and answered (very quickly) that he’d rather have watched the movie, and (although it was unfair) preferred what had happened.

Well, all of that to say this: that question made me think. So, after I addressed his situation and answered the question, I then told the children (4 boys around the ages of 8 or so) this story.

ME: In this room where we are now there are many rules. If any of the rules are broken, the person who broke the rule is given a specified punishment. One of these rules is that if you kick me in the shins, you will have to pay a $50,000 fine to me. All kicks to the shins must be punished and payment must be made in full.

Even though they know the rules, both Billy and Tommy kick me in the shins. Since they did that, what would be the right and fair thing to do? Would it be the fair thing to make them both pay me the $50,000 fine?

Kids: Yes.

Me: Yes, that would be the fair thing to do. But, what if I decided to have Billy pay me the $50,000 fine, but instead of having Tommy do the same, I made my son, Micah, pay Tommy’s fine for him? Would that be fair?

Kids: No.

Me: Why?

Kids: Because Micah didn’t kick you in the shins, so he shouldn’t be made to pay.

Me: That’s right, it isn’t fair because Micah is being punished for something that he didn’t do, and you’re not being punished for something that you did.
I then went on to talk to these kids about how this is exactly how God acts if we repent of our sins and place our trust in Christ Jesus. When that happens, God poured out His wrath – the wrath that would have and should have come to me – upon Jesus Christ for the sin of the believer. God has done this so that He could welcome man into His presence as well as satisfy His justice.

This truth, as it is flushed out and really dealt with for all that it entails, is really foreign to most people. And not just 8 year-old children, but older kids and adults alike don’t grasp this (or haven’t dealt with it) either. The weight of what happened on the cross, the truth of the substitutionary atonement that we find in Christ Jesus, was made most clear to me when I considered the following facts.

  1. Sin (any sin) is deserving of punishment in Hell.

  2. I have sinned, and therefore it would be just to punish me in Hell.

  3. The Bible is clear that man’s punishment in Hell will be eternal, because man can never pay it in full.

  4. Jesus Christ is and was perfect and sinless before, during, and after His incarnation.

  5. Jesus Christ deserves no penalty, no condemnation, and no punishment from God.

  6. Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for my sin (as well as for the sin of all true believers of all time) on the cross.
Implication: The just punishment of me and my sin that would have been inflicted upon me by the pouring out of the wrath of God, and which I would have spent an eternity paying for but never satisfying, has been paid in full by God Himself. Jesus Christ endured the wrath of God necessary to fully atone for my sin. That is something that I could never, in an eternity, do myself.

It was thinking about the fact that caused me to more clearly and truthfully appreciate the work of Jesus on my behalf. Namely, I would have been in Hell for all eternity and yet I’d still be no closer to satisfying the justice of God than when I first began my time in hell. I am convinced that only when we think of the cross of Christ in this manner, with this detail, that we can have any sort of tangible grasp of both the wrath and the love of God.

It is from meditating on this truth, this unfair treatment of Jesus Christ by God the Father, and the unfair treatment of me by God the Father, that my love and adoration for God has been increased higher and farther than ever before. Even now, I believe that my understanding of this great exchange, this double imputation of sin and righteousness, is very dim. The clarity that I have to understand this comes from my knowledge of the Word of God and my knowledge of my own utter depravity before a Holy God. And I am sure that when I am near death and I look back at this time of my life where I have such clarity and understanding about this great truth, that my current understanding will be a flickering candle next to the roaring fire of the understanding that only many more years of walking with God, studying His Word, and warring with sin can bring.

To God alone be the Glory for His grace and mercy, His unfair treatment, in the salvation of sinful men.

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