When God Doesn’t Seem Fair
Just because we don't like what's happening in our lives doesn't mean we get to change Scripture.
It was perfect timing, really. On Monday Wesley Hill published a blog post titled “The Long Defeat, and the Long Loneliness,” about his life as a celibate gay believer. It’s a stark, utterly honest reminder of a question that we Christians often fear to ask: “Is God in Christ the sort of God who would ask His children to embrace a lifelong loneliness, a long defeat?”
The next morning, though I don’t know whether she saw his piece, Bromleigh McCleneghan answered Hill’s question in the Washington Post. Her answer was no.
McCleneghan, whose article is titled “Sex and the single Christian: Why celibacy isn’t the only option,” is not prepared to believe in such a God. Her God, recognizing that life is “not fair,” is interested in minimizing that unfairness as much as possible:
Part of figuring out how to live into the creative life of God is figuring out how to live into being yourself, and choosing the spiritual practices and disciplines that support your own discipleship. One of the most unfair things the Christian tradition has foisted on singles is the expectation that they would remain celibate — that is, refraining from sexual relationships.
So, she says to the church, stop foisting. Let single Christians live their lives as they see fit — “maybe celibate, maybe not.”
McCleneghan encapsulates the spirit of our age in her insistence on a God who allows us to ignore His instructions and go after what we want, all in the interest of fairness. This is the kind of God so many of us want and hope for and — if our actions are any indication — believe in. But that is not the God we actually have. Hill’s vision of God feels far bleaker to us, at least at first — but it also happens to be the true vision, according to His Word that has been given to us in the Scriptures.
Don’t think I’m not enticed by McCleneghan’s warmer and fuzzier vision, though. The cry of “It’s not fair!” resonates powerfully with a 40-year-old single and celibate Christian woman. It’s not fair that I don’t have the family I’ve always longed for, and frankly, it’s not fair that so many in the Christian community disdain those of us who are in that position, especially when many of us got here at least partly through some of the very principles they taught us. It’s like a never-ending loop of unfairness.
So what? Life is unfair. Our parents teach us that from the time we’re very young (though I have to imagine that little Bromleigh wasn’t paying attention when her mother brought it up), and every year we’re alive reinforces the lesson. If we want to live with the unfairness, obey the seemingly harsh commands of God, and still acknowledge that He is good, we have to embrace life as what Wesley Hill, and J. R. R. Tolkien before him, describe as “a long defeat.”
That doesn’t sit well with those Christians who preach that every moment of the Christian life is a victory — a message that would probably appeal to McCleneghan. But again, it is a truer picture of reality here in a fallen world. And ultimately, it gives us a far stronger, richer, deeper vision of God than McCleneghan’s.
If “fair” means being fair in terms that we can see in this life, or in terms we might want to dictate to God, then no, He is not fair. Our reward for obedience is coming one day, but not now, not yet. When it comes it will certainly demonstrate God’s justice. Until then, we wait and we obey, knowing that — similar to what was once said of C.S. Lewis’s Aslan — God is not fair, but He is good.
Originally published August 23, 2016 at BreakPoint.org. Republished with permission.