At The Citadel there is a rule: freshmen (or “knobs” as we call them) can do no right. You could have the greatest pair of shined shoes in the history of man, but we’ll notice that your belt isn’t absolutely perfect. Even if we can’t find anything to get you about, your classmate, who is standing right beside you, will have something wrong. And then you’re wrong because he’s wrong. This sort of environment is all about shattering limitations and pushing yourself to do more than you thought possible. It’s about looking to come together as a team, understanding that the weakest link in the team, if exposed, defines the whole team’s strength and performance. And it’s about learning to function under stress, and being able to deal with a world that is completely unfair.
When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
He also said,
“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”
– Genesis 9:24-27, ESV
The problem with these verses is we don’t know what role Canaan played in any of this. Some have suggested that since God blessed Noah’s sons, Noah couldn’t curse Ham, so he picked on Ham’s youngest son. Some modern commentators believe that when it indicates Ham saw Noah’s nakedness, that means Ham slept with Noah’s wife while Noah was passed out, meaning Noah slept with his mother. They go on to suggest that Canaan is the result of that unlawful union and that’s what leads to Noah’s curse. The truth of the matter is that all of it is speculation. The Bible doesn’t tell us clearly because there is no reason to know the sordid details. We only know that Noah curses Canaan, and the Canaanites became the bitter enemies of the Israelites, for they contested the Promised Land.
Regardless of what Ham did, unless Canaan was directly involved, too, (some commentators suggest that the curse implies that he was), the curse is unfair. The descendants receiving the curse would also have gotten unfair treatment, regardless of Canaan’s involvement. But such is the real consequence of sin, in this case both Noah’s and Ham’s. Sin doesn’t always isolate itself to the one committing it. Too often it spreads to others, too. And that’s just one of the reasons God says we should hate sin. We could complain about this being unfair, but that’s how things are.
The catch here is to remember that God is unfair. If He was totally fair, He would administer full punishment for every crime. Pause and think about the implications of that for a moment. There would be no salvation. There would only be condemnation in Hell for all of us. That is what our sins rightfully deserve. Our God is also merciful and took the punishment for those sins upon Himself. He didn’t do the crime, but He took the punishment. And He didn’t scream, “This isn’t fair!”
The Bible doesn’t promise that life will be fair. It also doesn’t suggest that once we are saved all our problems go away. Despite those who might peddle the message of, “Everything will be better once you are saved,” and when they say everything they mean this life, the Bible tells us quite the opposite. Be more faithful, become a bigger target. That’s unfair, but the Bible warns us that is exactly what we should expect. So at some point we have to come to terms with the fact that life is unfair. We can’t let that fact get us down. Rather, we can see opportunity to reach others in that unfairness. We can see chances to serve others in that unfairness. In other words, in that unfairness we have the ability to shine the light of Christ to those who need to see it. Jesus constantly throughout His ministry sought to take unfair situations and reveal God’s love in response to them. That is the example we are to follow.
Life is unfair. We know that. Let us not dwell on its unfairness, especially towards us, but instead open our hearts and minds to others who are suffering because of its unfairness. Let us see their needs and the opportunities where God is at work and asks us to join Him. Let us seize upon the unfairness of the world around us and turn it around to say, “We love you. We care about you. We will meet your physical needs. We do this as living examples for the Christ who has already done all of this and more for us and wants to do the same for you, too.”