This post was first published during December 2015. –ed.
When the daytime temperatures in Southern California dip below 75 degrees, we know that Christmas will be fast upon us. The holiday is a joyous time—particularly for Christians—as it provides us with an outstanding opportunity to talk about Christ.
But the good news of Christ’s birth is increasingly lost on our narcissistic culture. And most of those who do make the connection between Christmas and Christ end up celebrating nothing more than a sentimental infant idol whose central message was “peace and goodwill to men.” Any discussion of the Savior that goes beyond such sentiment is usually met with widespread resentment.
Objections to the God of the Bible come thick and fast in a world that prefers a god on their own terms. And many Christians feel paralyzed and helpless in the face of the annual onslaught. The protests masquerading as questions can seem insurmountable. How can a loving God send people to hell? How can God justly condemn people who have never heard the gospel? Why doesn’t God save everyone? And why doesn’t God punish all the evil in the world?
In short, people without Christ most commonly object to the God of the Bible on the grounds that He is so unfair.
The surprising truth of the matter is that they are right—God is amazingly unfair in the way He treats people. And the birth of Christ is the most lavish example of God putting His unfairness on display before humanity.
The world might be right about God’s unfairness, but the conclusions they draw from it are abysmally wrong—as evidenced by the common objections they raise. Put simply, they’re asking the wrong questions. However, if we can help them ask the right questions they may be able to appreciate a most surprising and glorious truth—that God’s unfairness is actually good news!
To that end, we’re going to consider some of the most common gripes with God’s fairness—or lack thereof—and the truth revealed by a change in perspective.
How can a loving God send people to hell?
That question is rooted in an inflated view of man and a deflated view of God. Such a paradigm needs to be turned completely upside down before any proper perspective can be achieved.
The Bible tells us that men love to proclaim their own goodness (Proverbs 20:6) and are pure in their own eyes (Proverbs 16:2), but the reality is that we have all “sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23) of God’s righteous standards. People ought to tremble at the thought of standing alone before God on Judgment Day (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11–15), but they don’t comprehend the true gravity of their situation.
For example, the Bible says that all liars will end up in hell (Revelation 21:8). If that seems overly harsh, consider this: If I lie to my daughter there is nothing she can do to me. But if I lie to my wife, my sleeping arrangements are likely to shift from the bedroom to the garage. If I lie to my employer, I will probably get fired. If I lie to the government, I could end up in jail. Though the crime never changed in each situation, the level of punishment did change in proportion to the level of authority I offended.
The problem is not only how serious our sins are, but also how righteous God is. He is pure light without any trace of darkness (1 John 1:5). He created you (Genesis 1:26–27), owns you (Psalm 24:1), is fully worthy to receive your undivided worship (Revelation 4:11), and demands your perfect obedience to His law (Matthew 5:48).
When we understand our sin properly, in terms of the righteous Lord it offends, we can appreciate the necessity of hell. And more than that, we stand amazed that we don’t all wind up there.
From that perspective, the question isn’t “How can a loving God send people to hell?” but “Why doesn’t God give us all the due punishment for our sin and send everyone to hell?”
Next time we’ll tackle a couple more familiar complaints about God’s fairness.