Fairness Bias

Fairness Bias

“It’s not fair!” “Life’s not fair!”

As either an adult, parent or child, each one of us has said those words to ourselves, our children or others. We truly believed that what had happened to us or around us was not fair.

Dictionary.com defines fair as “in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate.” This begs the question, of course, who’s rules and standards?!  For most of us, 'who' generally means our perspective whatever that might be!

I recently attended a worship service at a church where I used to serve on staff. The pastor’s sermon series was “Fake News!” – very appropriate topic for today! Fake news, however, isn’t really new at all. It’s been around for centuries. Fairness bias is our tendency to interpret information and events relative to our own circumstances and self-perceptions.

In John 21:15-23, there is an interesting conversation between Jesus and Peter. You will recall that Peter denied Jesus three times prior to the crucifixion. During this conversation in John, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves Jesus. The interesting part of this conversation focuses on the word 'love' in the Koine Greek language (the New Testament form of Greek). Many of us are familiar with the most common of the three – agape – which is a reference to the God-kind of love – self-sacrificial and looking out for the other. Two of the other forms of love are found in phileo – brotherly love – “Philadelphia – city of brotherly love – and eros – the sexual kind of love.

In the John 21 passage referenced above Jesus first two questions focus on agape. “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter’s response, however, is “Yes, Lord, you know I phileo you.” The third time Jesus asks the question, He says, “Peter, do you phileo me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus confirmed Peter’s love for Him three times, forgiving Peter for denying Him and accepting what Peter could offer. Jesus grew his phileo love into agape. He will do that for us, if we ask and wait. Now at the end of this interesting dialogue between Peter and Jesus, Peter failed to see the grace afforded to him, was hurt by Jesus’ questions, and thought it unfair.

When Jesus asked Peter to follow Him even to death, Peter again perceives unfairness and asks, “What about him?” Referring to John. So feeling reprimanded by Jesus, Peter immediately looks around to see who else he can involve in this scenario. Jesus reply was simply, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” Jesus addressed Peter’s biased thinking at the end that question, when He said, “what is that to you?

Was Jesus fair in His conversation with Peter in your opinion? Peter had denied Him three times and three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Should Peter have felt hurt?

Was Jesus’ response about John fair? What should He have said about John?

Romans 5:8 says, 'While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' Is that fair? Is it fair that a good and righteous person in the sight of world has the same opportunity to become God’s child as someone who murders, cheats and lies his way through life? Is it fair?

'While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' Is that fair?

John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world ….” Did He really mean everyone in it or just the world? Not only did God love the world, He So loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son to die so that each person would be able to appropriate eternal life. Is that fair?

Is it fair that some people squander millions and others don’t have enough to eat? Is if fair that some people were born into poverty and others were born to live in castles and rule the world?

Life’s not fair!

What about you? Each person has to decide what and who to believe. God’s grace is unmerited (unfair), so we must follow Jesus without regard to our own perceptions of fairness. Life is not fair but God is good and He has a plan for each one of us who commit to follow Him.

God is good, all the time! All the time God is good!! Remember that the next time you think life is not fair!

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