And Justice for All… When Love Isn’t Fair

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

This is really quite long since there is a ton of Scripture. If you know the biblical stories, please advance through the text but there is a payoff at the end that you need to catch. Please be sure not to miss it.

The words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, but the lips of a fool consume him. Ecclesiastes 10:12 (HCSB)

Charlie Manson

Why is it that it tends to be so difficult to appreciate the tender compassion of our loving affectionate Father when he blesses someone who hardly deserves it? What if Hitler or Stalin or Charlie Manson, or even a Jeffrey Dahmer were to truly repent of his sin?

Far fetched to imagine that a Charlie Manson would ever repent of his sin against God and man. Would never happen, right?

It is said that Jeffrey Dahmer did just that; that he confessed and repented of his sin and entered into relationship with Christ in prison while on death row before beaten to death with a barbell while cleaning a bathroom. He killed, dismembered and cannibalized people… including children. According to Curt Booth, Dahmer’s conversion was genuine. Any chance you can stomach seeing and hearing this homicidal maniac’s testimony? Get ready… it’s coming.

“I know Jeffrey was ready,” Booth said. “Today, all the angels in heaven are rejoicing because Jeffrey has come home.” Booth said he had no doubt about the sincerity of Dahmer’s conversion. “On the great resurrection day, I’m expecting to see him right along there with Abraham, David, Isaac, James, John and all the saints that have lived right up to the modern day,” Booth said.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Curt Booth usually ministered to inmates at prisons closer to home. But in April 1994, he caught a glimpse of Dahmer on television. Dahmer mentioned that he wished he could “find a little peace,” Booth said. The Oklahoma church member sensed what he considered the hurt in Dahmer’s voice and eyes. Booth thought: “I know somebody who can give you that peace. His name is Jesus Christ.”

Booth sent Dahmer a Bible correspondence course teaching the steps to salvation. Dahmer mailed the answers back and thanked Booth for the course. “But I still have one problem,” Dahmer wrote. “This prison does not have a baptismal tank and Mr. Burkum the prison chaplain is not sure if he can find someone to bring a tank in and baptize me. I’ve taken all the other steps.” Booth contacted Roy Ratcliff, minister of the Madison Church of Christ in Wisconsin. Ratcliff set up weekly Bible lessons with Dahmer and baptized him on May 10, 1994.

Source: The Christian Chronicle

Do you believe it? Is Jeffrey Dahmer worthy of the Father’s mercy? If you see him in heaven will you be able to live with that? Forever?

It’s Not Fair!

Is anyone beyond the compassionate mercy of our Lord Jesus who as God was sent by His gracious Father God to redeem anyone who repents, as unjust as it might seem? Heaven will consist of murderers, child molesters, wife-beaters, bullies, rapists, thieves, kleptomaniacs, pyromaniacs, and nymphomaniacs. There are repentant horrific, disgusting villainous sinners that make up a significant population of heavenly citizens. Good people like you might be there. But there will also be really really bad people: Paul the Apostle (henchman, murderer), King David (murderer, adulterer, possibly a rapist and child molester*), Zacchaeus (mobster-like tax collecting thug), and… whoa… what if Judas is there? Is it even possible that the one who gave in to the devil and betrayed Jesus the Messiah could have repented prior to or while hanging himself?

Take a look at the deeds of King David; deeds one might say in hindsight were evil. People don’t want to hear how grace was essential to the salvation of the man after God’s own heart, David. He conspired to have his friend murdered so he could have his wife, yet there’s a problem suggesting he molested children? Just because it was legal that he could have sex with girls that may have been as young as 13 years old, slave girls of his wives promoted to concubine when the king decided he wanted them, it never was acceptable in the eyes of David’s Savior. It isn’t as much of a stretch to think of David as a molester of young girls as you might think. Even though it may have been consider “acceptable” doesn’t make it any less wrong and reprehensible. David’s repentance and God’s mercy extended to David was not on the surface fair to those girls and their parents, was it?

How is it fair that you or I can deny ourselves pleasure in the world to follow Christ for decades of our lives and the one who lived a hedonistic lifestyle can repent sincerely on his or her death bed at the last hour and be saved from the eternal consequence of sin? It happens every day somewhere in the world. There was the thief that was crucified next to Jesus who confessed he was a sinner (not only to Jesus but to another human being when he declared, “We deserve to die for our crimes.”). Here’s the thing: It’s not my call and it’s not yours. Thank God it’s His call.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

What a powerful promise from the Word of God. It’s as though God is suggesting that so long as He sent His Son to pay so great a debt, having been crucified as the sacrifice for sin – your sin and mine – that He must forgive us or the sacrifice is for nothing. In the eyes of God, it would not be just or fair if He didn’t forgive us when we confess sin. I have made colossal mistakes, and yet if I am repentant, it’s as though God fails Himself unless He forgives me. The truth here is that not only is this true going forward, it is true going back; all the way back to Adam.

Let me pose to you this question: What would you say that the prophet Jonah and the brother of the prodigal son have in common concerning this subject? Not sure? What if I threw in names like Esau or Cane? Let me suggest that each of these men and so many more in the Bible felt they were entitled to a little justice around here.

Jonah

Let us we begin with Jonah’s issue. Jonah refused to go to the hedonistic city of Nineveh, got thrown overboard and swallowed up and then spit up by a large fish, and then:

3 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:

“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”

10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. Jonah, chapter 3 (NLT)

4 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

4 The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

7 But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 8 And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah, chapter 4 (NLT)

Jonah became extremely angry over what he perceived to be injustice. And when you think about it, none of the ordeal between God and the city of Nineveh had anything to do with Jonah. Why did Jonah care whether God destroyed this city or not? Because it wasn’t right, that’s why. These were wicked people and at that time the city was the capital of the Assyrian empire, a people despised by a Jewish man. What God wanted for the people of Nineveh, Jonah did not like at all. Jonah goes there after much anguish and distress to inform the people to repent or be destroyed. So they repent, change their behavior, and God is satisfied. On the other hand, Jonah is livid. He is “even angry enough to die.”

Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:16-19 (HCSB)

It’s ironic to me that God used a whale to get Jonah into Nineveh and a worm to get him out. The city repented of its wicked behavior and Jonah was free to go. But he felt that the people were so bad that God would be unwilling to accept their repentance and would destroy them. Jonah went up the hill to get a front row seat to witness the carnage and destruction. I suppose Jonah would find some sense of gratification watching those people suffer. Instead, God expressed to His people in Nineveh compassion and sent Jesus to pay whatever debt the repentant people of Nineveh owed God for the evil they had perpetrated against Him along their way. To Jonah that hardly seemed fair. It wasn’t right! Rather than appreciate the gracious heart of God that extended mercy to those He loves, Jonah apparently resented God for letting them get away with murder. Again, how is that right?

Cain and Abel

I suppose it could be said that the most famous rival brothers were Cain and Abel since God chose to bless Abel when Cain felt entitled to the blessing. Other famous rival brothers might be Jacob and Esau since Jacob manipulated Esau out of his brother Esau’s birthright. I chose to focus on the brother of the prodigal son. Below is the story from Luke chapter 15.

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:11-31 (NLT)

While we know this story to be one of compassionate mercy and affectionate love between a father and his son, this is as well an incredibly sad story of jealousy, resentment, and entitlement because of a grudge held by at least one brother against the other. It is a story of reconciliation, redemption, and restoration, while at the same time a story of bitter separation of what might have been considered irreconcilable differences.

The brother of the prodigal son may have hated his brother’s tendencies toward disobedient, disrespectful recklessness, and perhaps was happy to see his brother leave the household, that is until he realized that his brother left with a boat load of resources from daddy’s estate. “What? Dad, you did what? You allowed him to leave with half of your estate? How is that possible? Why would you do that? He’s messed up. We both know what he is going to do with it!”

And then predictably the young man went out and did just as his brother knew he would. So why did the father of these two brothers bless the one with half of his estate, resources that the more reckless of the two brothers would go on to waste completely on his addictive behavior? I don’t know. What I do know is that there are an awful lot of people living in the world today that seem to have prospered and have been blessed and gone on to recklessly waste so much of the goodness earned and/or bestowed on them. It can be especially unnerving when someone who has inherited a fortune ends up buying into the lie of lust and greed and addiction and loses it all in their addiction leading to their inevitable destruction.

In the case of the prodigal son story that Jesus told, having realized he lost everything it behooved the young man to think seriously about returning to where his bread was buttered. The man was famished and literally starving to death. He struggles toward home and when his father looks out he sees him and summons his servants to run out with him to meet his son and help him home. He clothes his son and restores him back into full inheritance. And then, thrilled that his lost son is found, throws the party of the century for him.

One problem: not everyone is thrilled that the prodigal son has returned home. You read from the story in Luke 15 that his brother was furious. He is laboring in the fields and while he is walking back to the house he hears the revelry of this spontaneous party. He asked one of the servants inquisitively, “Sounds like fun in there; what’s going on?” The servant tells him that his brother is back home and it’s a celebration. The servant says, “Your brother doesn’t look good but it sure is amazing that he has come home. I’ll see you inside.” The jealous brother replies, “No, go on ahead. I’m going to try and take care of a few more things. Maybe I’ll be in later.”

Dad came outside, perplexed that this son isn’t compelled to welcome back his brother, and he asks him about it. Well, you read about his objections. “You gave him everything he didn’t deserve in the first place and my brother blew through all of it like candy. Whatever he was suffering was his own doing and undoing. Then he comes home and you celebrate his failures? I’ve been with you the whole time! I have served you in the family business faithfully. I have loved you father without reservation. You never threw a party for me. I don’t get it.” Then dad responds, “I love you son. I have always loved you.” Looking out over the vast property, he continues, saying, “And everything I have you have. It’s all yours. You’re right about one thing. You don’t get it. Your brother was lost to us – to me – and now he is found. Your brother who I also love deeply was dead and now he is alive!”

Why couldn’t the brother of the prodigal son rejoice with his father and family? Was it jealousy? Perhaps it was; or least it was a piece in the bigger picture. There was definitely a problem of entitlement. With everything the brother of the prodigal son possessed, what was missing? Was it that a party hadn’t been thrown for him? What was it?

Are you ready for it? I believe what was missing for the brother was love. Love? Why love? It’s obvious that the father loved both sons the same. It’s obvious that the father was generous to both sons. It is obvious to you and me, but it was not obvious to the brother. The brother should have been celebrating that he has the most awesome father on the planet; that no matter how bad it gets; no matter how bad I get; if I return home seeking mercy – even if it’s in the form of a hearty meal – my father is compassionate and gracious and forgiving and generous with his love, and all expressions of his love, without measure.

When Love Isn’t Fair

The problem with love in relationships is that I tend to measure love according to my expectations. My expectations and motivations are selfish and corrupt. So then my interpretation of love is motivated by entitlement, which clouds my expectations. How I perceive my own expressions of love offered by me to you, if I am honest, is motivated by how it makes me feel offering them. The closest thing to the exception to that reality is authentic love toward children—in particular my children—when love is often expressed through sacrifice, which typically is not reciprocated, at least not to the measure of the sacrifice by which it was offered. Love is not fair.

Here lies the reality once we get right down to it: I love me and I love you for what you do for me. We love from a sense of entitlement of reciprocation and gratification. Love is naturally corrupted by selfishness. So we need the love of God coursing through our being in order to really love someone. Then we can be genuinely compassionate. Then our extension of mercy and grace to another is authentic. Then love is sincere.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:1-3 (NLT)

James wrote this passage to his Christian brothers and sisters who were altogether motivated by selfish entitlement and had forgotten what it is to love each other. John wrote that perfect love expels all fear and reservation (1 John 4:18). Paul wrote that of peace, hope, and love, that love is most cherished and treasured. He writes that unadulterated love is good, and kind, and patient… and most of all compassionate and merciful, keeping no record of wrong doing. He is saying that real love is gracious, and if it’s genuinely gracious, love does not fail (1 Corinthians 13).

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. James 4:4-8 (NLT)

James is saying that in our divided loyalty between serving the will of God and serving my own will that I commit adultery against God’s plan for love in the world and His plan for love in the hearts of His children. The brother of the prodigal son could not love his brother because of his love for himself and the resentment burning in his heart against his brother. In that sense he became unfaithful to his father. He so much as accused his father of not loving him. To say that you do not love me enough is to say that you don’t love me.

Love is a qualified property of relationship and not quantified, when you really think about it. It sure is a good thing that God is all about grace because when I sin, I am not reciprocating the love that Jesus expressed through His sacrifice that paid the debt created by my sin; sin motivated by entitlement; lived out in selfishness. The love of God is not fair. However, God in His Word has declared that it is. God’s love for you and for me is not fair… to Him. Yet to Him it is absolutely fair and just.

So what was the root problem of the brother of the prodigal son? What was the underlying problem that Jonah found so contentious when it came to the restoration of the Ninevite people?

The Contaminant

As it is stated throughout FREEdom from MEdom Project, the root problem is a core belief of entitlement. It is one thing to acknowledge what I want and what I need but where it gets dicey is in the declaration of what I feel I deserve. The brother of the prodigal son felt he deserved equality in the moment. He deserved a party, at a minimum. He felt his brother, the prodigal one, deserved nothing for having betrayed the goodness and generosity of his father. So, that being the issue at the heart of it, it appears that the brother of the prodigal son hadn’t really considered the love that his father had for both of his sons. “I deserve your love and my brother does not.” Did the jealous son/brother have authentic love for his father, or was the true love really for himself and that his father was to gratify the love the jealous son had for himself.

Is desire an intellectual thing or is it emotional? You might say that it is both. But the sense of entitlement – what I believe I deserve – is very much predicated on emotion. It is a feeling that drives desire, lust, greed, envy, and jealousy. Entitlement is at the center of selfish pride and ambition.

Entitlement is also what leads to spiritual divide between the human spirit and the Spirit of God. What is the human spirit? It’s hard to define matter of factly. While not many would not dismiss that human beings are spiritual beings, defining spirituality from a humanistic ideology is difficult. That which is obviously good and right, and that which is obviously bad, perhaps evil, and wrong is palpable. What might be considered forces of morality and good and forces of immorality and evil can be examined in what might be considered spiritual context. The difficulty comes when that which was created to be good is corrupted by this matter of entitlement. You might say that selfish entitlement is the contaminant that turns what is good, even fulfilling, into something that is never really content or satisfied; when enough is never enough with a hunger and thirst for something more or something else.

For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. James 3:16 (NLT)

Entitlement is also at the center of the need to feel better than I do to one extent or another. Entitlement is at the center of my selfish thinking and behavior. Entitlement in the flesh is corrupt and the primary motivator for sin. And once I have sinned I am enslaved by it and addicted to it.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” John 8:34 (NLT)

That being said, it becomes clearer why Jonah had the issues concerning the people of Nineveh. He prophecies to them their doom because of their wickedness, and then, they repent, mourning and fasting, calling desperately on God, and then change their behavior. Why would Jonah feel such rage and resentment (so angry he could die) that God spared the city? Why would Jonah, a man of God, have such ill will that he would just as soon see them all, including women and children, destroyed? What was at stake for Jonah? Why did he care so much that God take them out? Did Jonah’s sense of entitlement and addiction to having his own personal interests satisfied, dig so deep inside of him that he would sit on a hillside to personally witness their death and destruction? What did Jonah feel he deserved? Was it his credibility as a prophet, as though he might be deemed less than viable if his prediction did not materialize? After all, he did spend three days making sure everyone in this large city was scared to death of God’s wrath, which they were. Why would Jonah, in his mind, offer these people up to die? To have his ego stroked? What is going on?

Jonah was consumed by his anger. His rage took over and controlled him. You might say that Jonah’s unrighteousness motivated him to think evil, wicked thoughts. If Jonah was a city, God may have delivered a prophet to threaten Jonah with destruction. As much as Jonah found the city of Nineveh reprehensible, he was no better than they were.

Was it so necessary that Jonah be proved right? Was it all about being right? Is that possible?

  • What lengths will you go to be right?
  • Since at the heart of being right is establishing and maintaining control, how important and necessary is it for you to sustain control?
  • What does it do inside of you when you are proven wrong, especially when you worked really hard to make your case?
  • What happens to you deep down when something important to you doesn’t sway your way?
  • To what extent do you become angry when things you care about don’t go your way?
  • In what ways might you be controlled, even consumed by your anger?

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)

When I am left dissatisfied and wanting I don’t like it. Disappointment grows into anger and anger into disappointment. Large and intense doses of anger and disappointment lead to increased stress in the form of rage and revenge… the need to get even. Because getting even is right. At least it feels right. I am really angry and someone is going to pay. That is my way. Resentment grows in me like it did Jonah and the jealous brother of the prodigal son. It leads me to do what I don’t want to do; even though one could contend that it’s exactly what I want to do.

What to Do, What to Do?

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

We have an amazing example in Scripture of a man who we would likely agree deserved to get his revenge. He was damaged goods and lost years of his life at the hands of people he believed loved him; family for that matter. He was entitled to his resentments, his rage, yet he displayed a tender and merciful heart responding according to the generous favor and provision God had extended to him in the midst of deplorable circumstances.

Joseph

Here are the key excerpts of Joseph’s incredible story from the book of Genesis, chapters 37-45:

3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. 4 But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

5 One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. 6 “Listen to this dream,” he said. 7 “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

8 His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

9 Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.

14 “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along,” Jacob said. “Then come back and bring me a report.” So Jacob sent him on his way, and Joseph traveled to Shechem from their home in the valley of Hebron.

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. 27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

At this point, who could blame Joseph if we were so filled with rage that he would feel justified in seeking vindication against his brothers for what they had done to him, and how they deceived Joseph’s father to believe that he had been killed by animals. But Joseph would find favor with those he had been sold to when he demonstrated his God-given prophetic talent to interpret dreams. Eventually, Joseph is the property of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who would in time grant Joseph with authority and power over the entire land of Egypt and everything in it. As you will read from Scripture here, it is a bit ironic how Joseph, betrayed, sold by his brothers, and dragged away from his father, is embraced by Pharaoh in similar fashion to the way the prodigal son was embraced by his father when he returned home to him.

37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”

41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck. 43 Then he had Joseph ride in the chariot reserved for his second-in-command. And wherever Joseph went, the command was shouted, “Kneel down!” So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said to him, “I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.”

Having found tremendous favor with Pharaoh as what was obviously God’s intended plan. (Worth noting: it might not be that God intended for Joseph to suffer as he did, but since Joseph did experience tremendous adversity, building in him character on a whole other level, God worked it all for good… Romans 8:28) The rest of the story is precious and priceless. Even though Joseph would display some gamesmanship in how he dealt with his brothers in order to educate them in some lessons about humility, well… if you don’t already know it, you need to look at the rest of this story as it draws to its unimaginable conclusion.

53 At last the seven years of bumper crops throughout the land of Egypt came to an end. 54 Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. The famine also struck all the surrounding countries, but throughout Egypt there was plenty of food. 55 Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” 56 So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt. 57 And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.

42 When Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you standing around looking at one another? 2 I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy enough grain to keep us alive. Otherwise we’ll die.”

3 So Joseph’s ten older brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain. 4 But Jacob wouldn’t let Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, go with them, for fear some harm might come to him. 5 So Jacob’s sons arrived in Egypt along with others to buy food, for the famine was in Canaan as well.

6 Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground.7 Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he demanded.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied. “We have come to buy food.”

8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him.

18 The brothers were terrified when they saw that they were being taken into Joseph’s house. “It’s because of the money someone put in our sacks last time we were here,” they said. “He plans to pretend that we stole it. Then he will seize us, make us slaves, and take our donkeys.”

19 The brothers approached the manager of Joseph’s household and spoke to him at the entrance to the palace. 20 “Sir,” they said, “we came to Egypt once before to buy food. 21 But as we were returning home, we stopped for the night and opened our sacks. Then we discovered that each man’s money—the exact amount paid—was in the top of his sack! Here it is; we have brought it back with us. 22 We also have additional money to buy more food. We have no idea who put our money in our sacks.”

23 “Relax. Don’t be afraid,” the household manager told them. “Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks. I know I received your payment.” Then he released Simeon and brought him out to them.

24 The manager then led the men into Joseph’s palace. He gave them water to wash their feet and provided food for their donkeys. 25 They were told they would be eating there, so they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.

26 When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him. 27 After greeting them, he asked, “How is your father, the old man you spoke about? Is he still alive?”

28 “Yes,” they replied. “Our father, your servant, is alive and well.” And they bowed low again.

29 Then Joseph looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother. “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” Joseph asked. “May God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Then Joseph hurried from the room because he was overcome with emotion for his brother. He went into his private room, where he broke down and wept. 31 After washing his face, he came back out, keeping himself under control. Then he ordered, “Bring out the food!”

32 The waiters served Joseph at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table. The Egyptians who ate with Joseph sat at their own table, because Egyptians despise Hebrews and refuse to eat with them. 33 Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and to their amazement, he seated them according to age, from oldest to youngest. 34 And Joseph filled their plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave the others. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

45 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately! 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. 11 I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise you, your household, and all your animals will starve.’”

12 Then Joseph added, “Look! You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that I really am Joseph! 13 Go tell my father of my honored position here in Egypt. Describe for him everything you have seen, and then bring my father here quickly.” 14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. 15 Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.

Now that’s a love story. At the very least, Joseph should have sold his brothers into slavery serving him. Rather, he shows them immeasurable mercy having compassion on them. While he did spend some time allowing them to more fully realize who they had bullied and betrayed as young adults. They certainly were set up to experiencing some paranoia until Joseph blessed them from his bounty of resources into a far better life than what they had. Joseph did not feel it necessary to assert revenge against them. He responded to the jealous actions his brothers initiated against him with self-control and kindness.

Power of the Least Interested Party

Love really isn’t fair, is it? But that is the thing about sincere love. Sincere love does not seek to have the advantage. Sincere love doesn’t have to be right. It doesn’t keep score. Sincere love declares that, “I love you and you will know it because my love for you is an action that does not require an equal reaction.”

Unfortunately, in most relationships, “I love you because of how I feel loving you.” Really what that says is, “I love me and I love you for what you do for me.” Therefore, my love for you is conditional on the satisfaction I experience in the relationship. When you do not meet my actions and expressions with equal or greater actions and expressions of love, I am disappointed. Maybe I am angry and/or hurt.

The Power of the Least Interested Party principle suggests that the person in the relationship who is even a little bit less interested or invested has the leverage (at least the majority of the leverage) in the relationship. The theory suggests that both parties are interested and both even highly invested, but that the one just a little bit less invested ultimately has the power and the leverage in the relationship.

If you have made it this far in the reading, this is the theory you will be thinking about and talking about with the important people in your life. Think about it like this: A star employee may in actuality have leverage against their employer because it is clear that, “You need me more than I need you.” The talented star employee can take their services anywhere and be the star. The problem with “marrying up” to someone who is soooooo good lookin’ or who possesses the lion’s share of the resources and wealth is that they tend to know it and understand it and use it to their advantage even though it would still break their heart to pieces to lose you. However, the context of the relationship is such that the power of the least interested party is at work as long as it is allowed to be. It typically is not even done consciously or with malicious intent, rather it’s something that just is, like gravity just is – you don’t see it or really think about it but you live subject to it.

While the theory is in fact alive and kicking, it is not love as God intended it for us.

If I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:2-7, 13 (NLT)

Besides the stories above about what love is not and what love is, we are given this precept from the Word of God about authentic sincere love. “It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.” Love is interested in truth. What is truth? Truth is that right is right and good is good. When God responded to the repentance of the Ninevites with favor from a heart of love it was right and good. When the father of the returning prodigal son showed him compassion and generosity from a heart of love it was right and good. When Joseph showed his brothers mercy and providence from a heart of love it was right and good. When this love is at work in relationship there is nothing to fear. This love is an invitation. It is embracing and engaging. It is compelling.

God in his infinite power, bounty, wisdom, and authority should be the least interested party in relationship with me but love isn’t fair. He has it all and I have nothing, despite my lies to myself to the contrary. God owns it all. He is the creator of it all. He gives it all life and purpose, yet…

Are you ready for it?

I have the power in the relationship. Though I am an invisible speck in the universe, I have the power – the leverage – in this relationship between God and me. I am the least interested party in this relationship. God has invested everything including His Son. How is it possible that I am less interested when I on my own have nothing and He has everything? Even Jesus recognized this truth.

I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. John 5:30 (NLT)

Substitute the word ‘love’ for the words ‘judge’ and ‘judgment’ and you really get a sense for the heart of God and of Christ in His love for us, as well as His purpose for us.

So why is it that I can be the least interested party in this relationship that is a matter of life and death? Why? Because I am like Thomas and the disciples of Jesus before their eyes were fully open about what they were witnessing in the resurrected Savior. I do not fully believe since I have not fully seen with eyes half shut the full and complete truth about God and His relationship with me. If I saw and understood God fully it would change everything. I wouldn’t be able to do anything but fall to my knees in worship. (Measured Faith (Belief Enough) speaks to this problem; this condition)

From my perspective on life and the world, God’s love for me certainly isn’t fair, to Him. My love for him is selfish. I am so entitled in my flesh. My love for Him is conditional, if I am really honest about it. I have committed adultery against God time and time again. I worship idols in my world daily… hourly, serving my own interests. God’s love for me is pure. His love for me is unconditional. His love for me is sacrificial. God’s love for me is precious to Him and treasured by Him every second of every day. His Word says that He is jealous for me in hot pursuit of me, standing at the door of every room in my heart and pounding on it. I cannot not even begin to comprehend that from God’s perspective His love for me, and for you IS JUSTICE; JUSTICE FOR ALL! As the song says, “Amazing love, how can it be?”

What do I do with that? What do you do? Accept it and rejoice. Today is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.

When considering the love of God that isn’t fair, who knows who I will see in heaven. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:15-19 (NLT)

Post-script: Please do not take for granted the matter of relationship with God through Jesus Christ. While the love is unconditional the relationship is conditional. You have the power of choice in this matter. It is within your nature to be selfish and reject God. It is within your entitled nature to take on the role of God for yourself even though you are not and will never be God. Relinquish the power and accept this amazing love that is not fair (since we do not deserve it) but absolutely fair and just in the eyes of your Savior Jesus who is only and fully God. Surrender your life into His care and plan for you. Then be amazed at how God reveals the truth of what you have read to your mind and to your heart.

Blessings.

To open follow-up to this article, click on Power of the Least Interested Party… When Love Isn’t Fair

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5 Responses to And Justice for All… When Love Isn’t Fair

  1. Dianne says:

    wow, wow, WOW.
    I really get it so much more, you explain it so thorough and scripturally.
    God has blessed you with an amazing spiritual gift to explain so many things about our selfish nature.
    All for His glory! Amen
    Dianne

    • Thank you so much! I appreciate the encouragement, Dianne. When I put this stuff out there, only God knows where and how it lands until someone like yourself posts a comment. I am blessed with the privilege to reach out with this vehicle and pray that folks are helped and lives are changed.

  2. Joyce Rice says:

    Thank you – this is such a powerful reminder of the kind of Lord we serve – accepting His grace and mercy…

  3. Roberta Vondrak says:

    Very good article; thanks! …keeps us realizing the sovereignty of our Lord and both the Truth and Grace that He alone is able to provide for us what we each need….and who are we to question it.

  4. It was so much encouraging to me.

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