Being a human being in a physical world is not always easy: life is often not fair. We know that justice requires that good be rewarded and evil be punished, but it is clear that this does not always happen: sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people. The “Santa Claus” rules, where people who behave well get gifts and people who behave badly get coal, seem more often broken than followed. This often occurs on the interpersonal level, when people do evil and benefit from it, or do good and fail to benefit. It happens also on the natural level, when natural disasters, illness, and other so-called “acts of God” affect good and bad alike. It’s clearly not fair, not just. Where is God in all this? God is said to be good and powerful. But if goodness is not always rewarded, then are we to conclude that God isn’t good, isn’t powerful, or simply isn’t real?
Happily, we’re not left to wrestle with this question alone: God provides an answer. On the first Christmas day, God himself took on human nature and became a human being living in the physical world, allowing himself to be personally subjected to unfairness and injustice. Rather than give himself a privileged, comfortable human life, he became the infant child Jesus, a baby born in poverty, wrapped in rags and laid in an animal food trough. His first admirers were ragged shepherds camping out in the fields with their animals. At a very early age, he became a political refugee, having to flee his country to save his life. He grew up in obscurity. He taught people about God, and his miracles confirmed the truth of what he was saying. He showed love, forgiveness, and healing to those who were rejected and downtrodden. He exposed the corruption of the local religious leaders and they conspired to have him officially and publically executed as if he were a murderer, though he had committed no crime. He was shamefully and painfully tortured to death in public, and buried in a sealed tomb. But he is God: his enemies could not keep him dead; he rose to life on the first Easter sunday, lives today, and promises his new life to his followers.
But what does this answer mean? It means this: living in the world is often hard, full of suffering and unfairness, but God himself did it, to help us and show us how, and if we follow him, and persevere, we will receive his resurrection and new life. Yes, Jesus experienced injustice: his goodness earned him suffering, not rewards. But he did not rise up in anger to crush wrongdoers. He kept showing love and doing good despite the suffering. Even when his enemies executed him, he rose from the dead to continue to do good, and to inspire and empower his followers to do the same, promising them the same resurrection and new life. While this is indeed a world in which life is not always fair and good is not always rewarded, if we follow in the steps of Jesus, who endured and overcame great unfairness and suffering, we too will endure and overcome. Jesus is God’s answer: he is good, he is powerful, and he is real; he himself has shown us by his own example how to live as a human being in a world where life is not always fair.
©Agapios Theophilus, 2017