|Perhaps you can picture the scene as it plays out. It can be among the children at the playground, or as we are experiencing as I write this, among the athletes at the Olympic Games. Whatever the level of skill, the participants are engaged in some sort of competitive activity – who’s the fastest, who’s the smartest, who’s … whatever! And suddenly, it’s apparent that some part of the game has gone awry: a rule has been broken, or maybe one competitor is simply so much better than the others, and you hear the exclamation – “That’s not fair!” Something has gone wrong, someone has experienced a development in the exercise that somehow doesn’t seem right, and the key thing is, we know it when we see it or experience it.
In our day and time, the cry “It’s not fair!” is shouted long and loud from so many different situations and voices. The term “microaggressions” (little annoyances about you that offend me) has become a part of our daily vocabulary, athletes and their coaches are accused of cheating to gain a competitive edge, and countless individuals have raised their voices against rampant abuse and misuse of people in a variety of settings. Our political process is mired in real or imagined scandal, and dirty tricks seem to be an element of every day life.
Why are we so up in arms about all of this? It’s because deep down inside, we know that there is a right way, that there should be goodness and justice in human relationships. Healthy and honest competition should be the rule of the day. People in power should not abuse those around them. Children should not be molested, or murdered in their school rooms. We yearn for Utopia, yet an honest look at “reality” strongly draws us toward a pessimistic reaction – “good luck trying to find that!” The cynical religious joke is “if you find a perfect church, don’t go there, because you’ll ruin it.”
In short, we know that something deeply important – goodness, justice – is broken, not only in our culture, but in every culture. Our problem is not that we know it’s broken – it’s that we can’t fix it, no matter how hard we try. Somehow, we humans seem to always return to our own self-serving motivations, and goodness/justice takes a back seat to our personal desire and felt need, regardless of the impact on others. And when an unjust situation is exposed to the light, the immediate reaction in our soul is that somebody, somewhere, has to pay for this! We want justice!
What faces us here is the same dilemma that arises in every one of these “transcendent longings of the soul.” We yearn for truth, for love, for goodness and justice. We know what should be, but we can’t find it or produce it. We long for perfection, we strive for it, we try to legislate for it, and yet the pursuit always, always falls short or breaks down before we can reach the goal.
Will there ever be justice in the earth? Will goodness ever win out, completely? Will evil and brokenness ever be overcome? I believe there is an answer to that question, and we’ll explore it in the next article. Stay tuned!