Commentary: Is God fair?

Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Brown,
Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Brown,
First Congregational Church
(860) 628-6958

I asked that question in a sermon recently. I think we can agree that life isn’t always fair, but is God fair?

In the Christian story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples, we are told that he gathered them in an upper room, all of them, the faithful, the confused, the hurt, and the traitor alike. At the table he gave them a new commandment, that they love one another as he loved them.

He didn’t promise them that the world would be fair. He promised to love them, and said that if they loved one another, they could get through anything.

The weekend before I preached that sermon, our Southington community was touched by the unfairness of life. One of our precious, a senior at Southington High School, was tragically lost in a car accident. It isn’t fair. I won’t lie to you—it isn’t fair.

I’ll never forget the first time I really got slapped in the face by unfairness. I was 18 years old, in my first year of college at North Carolina State University. I left home to fulfill a dream—my mother’s dream. My mother, one of the smartest people I have ever known, had not had the opportunity to attend college. She was determined that her children would have that chance. I was headed to NC State to become an engineer.

My father drove me the four hours to campus. My mother so wanted to come with us, but she couldn’t. She was in the hospital, dying of cancer.

My mother was a light. In her eyes you could see God’s light—it sparkled there. Through all the pain and unfairness, her faith never wavered. Yet even that light couldn’t protect her from cancer. In February of my first year in college, she died.

I returned to school reluctantly to finish the semester, but it was hard. I thought the world was too unfair—that God was too unfair.

One night, when it was especially dark, I was wandering around campus and then sat for the longest time on the back steps of Reynolds Coliseum, the basketball arena at the center of campus. I felt the pain of loss, and tears came, hard. It was the first time I had cried since the funeral. But as I sat there, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a warmth even though it was a cold March night, and a presence that I could not explain. I wiped my eyes, but I was alone. Could it be—my mother’s light was still there? Had God been there all along?

That moment began the journey that has led me to today—not to be an engineer, which was my mother’s dream for me, but to carrying her light, which is her gift to me.

Life might not seem fair right now—God might not seem fair. But here’s the thing—love does not create fairness—love creates community, and community can get you through anything.

Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Brown is the pastor at the First Congregational Church in Southington and a member of the Southington Interfaith Clergy Association. He can be reached at or (860) 628-6958.