Sunday, February 03, 2008

Is life unfair?

In case you're wondering how I got hold of the photo below... well, I didn't go looking for it. I was reading something else at the Fortify blog, and when I saw that photo I realized that it related to something I'd been thinking about. It makes me think about Cain and Abel, but that's a posting for another day.
Every day, people are born in Mali, and people are born in Connecticut. Some are born with the genes and pre-natal care to have terrific intellectual potential, and others don't get enough nutrition to be healthy. People are born that will grow up to be ugly or deformed, or average, or good-looking -- and occasionally someone is born that will grow up to look like this:

What do you see in this picture? I don't notice a lot of details in the picture itself; what I do notice is that my stomach muscles contract -- I lean forward slightly. And something in my legs -- an itching to walk to wherever this woman is.

Those urges pass in less than a second, but what are they about? I have to think there's something biological. I read in a recent Atlantic that babies gaze longer at photos of "beautiful" faces than "average" ones -- there's apparently a genetic component causing us to be attracted to certain female faces.

So there's something objectively there; beauty isn't just in the eye of the beholder. Well, the same is true of height, mathematical ability, cup size, visual acuity, eye color, tendency toward baldness, etc. The distribution of these things isn't equal -- nor is it what we might call "fair."

So is life unfair? Well, the NIV text says about five times in the New Testament that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10; Romans 2; Ephesians 6; Colossians 3; James 2). So the way I figure it, God must have a different idea of what constitutes value -- of what's truly important in life -- than we do. Which makes some sense, come to think of it; isn't it written somewhere that God's thoughts aren't our thoughts? In fact it is, in Isaiah 55:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
How can we become like God in this way? How can we come to have an accurate understanding and estimation of value, rather than the warped one which seems to be the default? A few things come to mind:
  • Get understanding from God's precepts (and therefore hating every false way): Psalm 119:104
  • "Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth" -- Colossians 3:2
  • Don't love the world (exactly how you avoid this is left as an exercise for the reader) -- 1 John 2:15
Yes, these are sort of abstract, but that doesn't make them purely mental exercises. What we need -- what I need -- is spiritual transformation.

I hear that such transformation is possible -- through training. A recent sermon discussed the difference between trying to do something vs training to do something. We train for transformation by pursuing spiritual disciplines -- seeking time alone with God, meditation on God's word, reading it regularly, prayer, accountable fellowship. If we do those things, then I think Philippians 1:6 applies to us: ...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (or something close to that).

1 comment:

Kevin Lau said...

thank the comment about the unfair and the subject of beauty is a great blessing to a young man like me. offer our bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him, (Romans 12)


Mppc newie Kevin Lau (link to the site through Carol's blog