"Pastor Joe" is a dear Brother in the faith and also happens to be a pastor at an independent baptist church south of town. He asked my opinion yesterday on a lesson he is preparing for his church and some of what he is studying is from Acts 12 and so of course I pulled up the online Bible I use and read it. Something other than what he was asking about really jumped off the screen and made me think...it has to do with God's ideas about fairness.
Some in this world demand things be "fair". I have an intellectual understanding of what "fairness' means but unfortunately I think, like most of us in this world, fairness is too often defined by whatever happens to work out to my benefit...or at least something that doesn't harm me. It seems that God doesn't really claim to be fair...other than whatever He decides He wants to do, being the gold standard in operational definitions.
In Acts 12 we read about an angel...presumably of God...setting Peter free from prison and almost certainly saving his life in the process. That sounds pretty amazing...as miracles always do. If you are Peter you must be so please, excited and honored...but what if you happen to be someone else in the story? What if you are one of the guards that was charged to watch Peter and make sure he did indeed stand trial the following day? I assure you in that case that you are emotional but you aren't pleased, excited or honored...a list of more probable emotions would be frightened, angry, sorrowful, etc. You see, after Herod determined that Peter had escaped, he ordered the guards who were to be watching him be killed...which seems to be a harsh punishment.
So was God fair to those men? How hard do you think it was for those men's family to accept the Gospel they possibly heard from Peter? I have a hard time thinking that the families of these guards were pleased with the idea of Jesus being the Messiah and I don't think they were likely waiting in line to worship the God that apparently sentenced these men to death.
What was their crime? They were not overtly evil, so far as we know anyway. The text doesn't say that they had beaten Peter or molested neighborhood kids or even had bad attitudes. And what if they had beaten Peter...what would God's reaction be? I seem to remember God hanging on a cross looking at those who had beaten Him and his reaction wasn't death for them, but pity and mercy. "They don't know what they are doing". Is that God's message for the guards of Peter...except with less grace and less pity? I have asked a ton of questions and I don't have an answer to the first question I have asked. I just think that such questions and meditation on these particular acts of God can only serve to stretch and broaden faith. I hope so anyway...anything less just wouldn't seem fair