shoes-off-mat

by Jeff McInnis

One of the arguments that plague many Christians when talking with a non-Christian is the idea of fairness. The argument goes something like this – “what about the tribesmen in the jungle who has never heard of Christ? Would he be sentenced to eternity away from God? That’s not fair.” It is a good question and worthy of some further inspection.

One of my pet peeves is being asked to remove my shoes at a friend or family member’s house. For the entire visit I’m going to be uncomfortable – I like to wear shoes so my feet don’t get cold or start to hurt from walking on the hard floor. But, when I am a guest in someone else’s house, I live by their rules. If they want me to take my shoes off, I take my shoes off. Is that fair? It might not be fair in our modern-day selfish definition of the word fair, but in an objective sense it is fair. I had a choice whether to come to their house or not. When I chose to be in their house I unwittingly made the choice to temporarily live by their rules. As it is their house, their rules apply, not mine.

The difference between this analogy and our situation living in the world is that there was apparently no choice on our parts as to whether or not to be a member of the world. We were just put here. Unlike our shoe scenario, we cannot just put on our shoes and go home – we have no shoes and no other home.

But this is not a violation of the objective idea of fairness. It is perfectly fair. We were created to be here. There is no other place to be. There is no other game in town. We cannot go to the universe we created. There is literally nowhere else to be. So if our created universe is run by a Creator who wants us to take off our shoes, we take off our shoes. That is fair. We operate in His creation, so we conform to His rules.

But does this description really accurately describe the essence of who God is? Is He a hard-hearted tyrant who just makes arbitrary rules? If we only look superficially, we may think that. But let’s look again.

God not only created the universe in which we live, He created us to live in it. The fact that we have been given life and a place to live is to our benefit, not our detriment. We exist and prosper by the good graces of our God above. We owe everything we have and everything we are to Him. If it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t be anywhere. We wouldn’t be enjoying the laughter of our children or the smell of flowers because we wouldn’t be at all. We wouldn’t have a nose with which to smell or a brain to sense it. We wouldn’t be at all.

It is true that a little discomfort comes into every life, and into some lives much discomfort comes. How would we know comfort if we did not also know discomfort? How do we know pleasure if we do not also understand pain? We are given fairness, but not our worldly idea of fairness involving making sure that we get our due because everybody else gets their due. We are given a Godly fairness that exceeds our worldly idea of fairness and is based on Him having created the universe and writing all the rules. This Godly fairness says that He created the world for us to enjoy. In this way we are getting much more than fairness; our idea of fairness would have dictated that there was no creation and no us. Why? Because we provided none of this; it was provided for us. Indeed, if the idea of fairness and justice can come down to a balance, then what have we provided to offset our life and our situation on the other side of the balance? If we measure ourselves and what we have against something in the other side of the balance, what would be there? What are we able to contribute? What do we possess that wasn’t given to us as a free gift? Absolutely nothing. Some may say that their vocational work was not a gift. But for whom do you work? The other people in this world are not here because you created them and put them here – God put them here. The money they pay you with is not your invention. The work you have to do, whether making furniture or helping with financial plans, uses no resources that you had any hand in creating. You benefit by an innumerable number of gifts from God.

I don’t know what happens to the person who has never heard of Jesus, but I do know that our God is kind, merciful, and loving. He has provided for everyone. God gave us immense pleasures to enjoy and a physical body with which to enjoy them. What we get is not our finite idea of fairness, but a perfect, Godly gift that far surpasses fairness. We are given our own life, a creation in which to live it, and the ability to enjoy the creation. That far surpasses our worldly idea of fairness, where all good must balance. If God had exercised this type of fairness, none of us would be here. If God wants us to take our shoes off, we take our shoes off.