Imagine two brothers, ages four and six. Their Uncle Carl gives them a small bag of candies of all shapes and sizes.
They run excitedly to their mother. They know they can trust her to divide the candy equally between them.
Each child mounts a chair on either side of her as she empties the bag on the kitchen table. When the content of the bag is divided she slides each portion toward one of the boys.
Suddenly there is a mighty yelp from the four-year-old. “That’s not fair!” he cries, pointing out that the older brother appears to have more big pieces.
The pleasure of sharing the candy disappears. Claims and counterclaims take over. Tears flow. So the mother patiently goes through the process again.
Where would a four-year-old boy come onto “fairness” language? And why does the mother take such care in being fair to both children? Christians would say it all derives from the image of God borne by both mother and children.
That is, Christians believe fairness is intrinsic to the nature of God and because we are made in his image, a basic grasp of fairness is inborn in humans. At our best we can see when wrong has been done, and want it to be corrected.
Of course, our human sense of fairness does not always function well because of the Fall. Selfishness or bias can distort.
We call the administration of fairness by the more formal word, justice. That is what the mother of the two boys was attempting. Whether consciously or not, she was honoring God himself in this apparently minor human transaction.
The Christian family should strive to model fairness not only between children but also between parents and children as well as between parents themselves. Parents need to remember that they are not always right even though they are always parents.
When our two boys were about 14 and 16 I corrected them pointedly for what I thought was an offense. The 14 year old spoke up strongly, “Dad that’s just not fair.” I sat down alone to reflect. I came to see that he was right, so I called the boys together and apologized for my error.
Commitment to fairness should be evident in the church too, whether in a local congregation or a denomination with stations in many countries.
Blessed is that body of Christ which not only preaches love and grace to its people but also strives in all the conduct of its business from local to international, to administer justice in plain view.
When Uncle Carl gave two little nephews a bag of mixed candies he didn’t know that the issue of justice would come to the fore and that an explosion might occur over the issue of fair play.
But fortunately the boys had a mother who knew about the need to promote fairness by practicing it early in the boys’ lives — with patience and understanding. In the name of Jesus and as a witness to the world, may that sense be evident, too, in the church!
Photo credit: andrea (via flickr.com)