Today I was at Orlando’s most wonderful and magical attraction, the Orlando Temple. In many ways much better than that other Magic Kingdom place out here where the lines are just far too long. While at the Temple, I was contemplating the issue of justice as I considered the concerns of a very intelligent new former-Mormon friend that I met recently. He raised some fair points in describing the logical concerns he had developed about the existence of God and the man-made nature of religion and scripture. Among the many points he made in our conversation, he raised the issue that God is supposed to be just and “no respecter of persons,” yet there is such an obvious lack of justice in the world and such disparity in how God appears to answer prayers, if at all. He cited the commonly raised objection about LDS testimonies thanking God for help in finding their car keys, an apparently trivial application of divine power, while good people suffer abuse and death at the hands of evildoers or suffer painful disease and trauma in spite of seemingly unanswered prayers they and others offer. It all seems so unfair and random. Yes, I have to agree: this mortal world is filled with injustice, unfairness, and randomness. But there is a God who not only exists but who loves us. However, nowhere is it written that we will find fairness and equality in this life.
The scriptures speak of God’s justice in terms of how he judges us in the end. Romans 2 tells us He is “no respecter of persons” in how he judges us according to our works and brings His children back into His presence–that’s the final act, not the current scene here in this world of death and sin where we are all going to suffer and die as part of His great plan. His fairness is manifest not in being born into equal circumstances here, but in how He, in the end, ensures that all who will hear the Gospel message will have that chance, regardless of when and where they were born in mortality. His goodness is not immediately evident when we suffer, but in His victory over death and pain, leading to that moment when Christ will wipe away all our tears.
Here in mortality, our immediate temporal concerns are HUGE. They are all we know. How can God accept our suffering and loss while still claiming to be just and to love us? Losing our sight, for example, is a traumatic personal loss that will limit us for the rest of our lives. How could God let this happen to us, or to an innocent young child born to prayerful parents pleading for the child’s health? From our vantage point, it is so unkind. Is there a purpose in it? Sometimes, at least, yes.
As I pondered justice in the Orlando Temple this morning, I opened the Bible to John 9 and read of a beautiful case of injustice. Jesus and His disciples walked past a man who was born blind. His disciples, understanding that there was a premortal existence before this life, wondered if the man had sinned there and was thus born blind, or, instead, if his parents had sinned to deserve that impairment in their son. Neither guess was correct. Christ explained that the man was born blind that the works of God might be made manifest. Christ then made some mud and placed it on the mans’ eyes and instructed him to go to a pool of water to wash it off, whereupon his eyes were healed. (People sometimes wonder why Christ used such a strange method to perform the miracle instead of simply causing the eyes to be instantly healed. I see the application and removal of mud as symbolic of how Christ wipes away the mortal mire that limits our vision.)
Consider the man’s lot before Christ worked the miracle. After he was healed, we read in John 9:8: “The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?” The blindness that this man suffered, apparently as a direct result of God’s will for him, reduced him to a life of poverty. He “sat and begged.” Though he was apparently a good man raised in a family of believers, he suffered from an affliction since birth that reduced him to begging for a living, a state that persisted year after year. Others could see and earn money. He could not. Ir wasn’t his fault, but there was nothing he could do about it. It seemed to be a senseless, unnecessary burden that destroyed his potential in mortality.
His difficult situation changed suddenly, and he quickly had a chance to show us what kind of man he was. This poor beggar turns out to have been a man of courage and integrity with a quick wit. I love his use of sarcasm when the bitter and powerful leaders of his religious community are repeatedly inquiring about their enemy, Jesus, who had performed this miracle. “He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?” He turns the knife. Hilarious. And he boldly stands before those bitter, nasty souls who soon cast him out from their community because he dares stand as a witness for Christ.
What characteristic tenderness Christ shows after the miracle as he comes to visit the man:
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Since birth, that good man suffered from blindness–an unfair affliction. He had to beg for a living. Blindness and many other physical and mental afflictions burden millions of souls around the today. There may be many noble souls, perhaps far greater and closer to God than any of us, whose magnificent character is hidden by the guise of a beggar. In the beggar, the homeless person, the outcast, the prisoner, or the victim, can we see the son or daughter of God waiting for the touch of Christ’s power to help reveal who they really are? The power that heals and reveals may not dramatically touch them in this life, but we are assured that Christ will wipe away all the tears of those who follow Him. Most wonderfully most expressive of God’s true justice and fairness, He will wipe away all the tears even of those who never heard of Christ in this life but, when finally given the chance to hear the Gospel message it, accept it and Jesus as their Savior. God’s justice comes in the end, when all will recognize that they have been treated and judged fairly, though out individual circumstances in mortality vary wildly. It’s a rough world, sometimes savage and brutal due to the workings of human agency, Satan’s assaults, the workings of chance, and the very nature of mortality where pain and death are essential parts of our journey. Not to mention the custom-engineered trials and afflictions that God may plan for us to achieve higher ends, eventually, as He did with the blind man in John 9.
Nobody could see any justice or fairness in the sorry lot of that blind man, but what a sacred purpose was behind it all. For all of us, if we will not abandon God, we will find that the new vision He gives us with one gentle touch after we have endured will wash away all doubt of His goodness and love for us and help us see and discover things we had never imagined, including new insights into who we actually are and who we can become. What greatness He revealed in the blind man’s soul, and how kindly He lead that good man back to Him.
There may often be little or no justice here in mortality, but this does not weaken the need for faith. God is real and He does answer prayers. Not often the way we want it, but He does answer and still works miracles today as in days of old.