Grace vs Karma?
I was reading an interview with Bono, and he just started preaching the gospel to the interviewer in the context of Grace v. Karma. The interviewer didn't like it, and he kept saying to Bono that he didn't believe in any of the Jesus stuff, but Bono kept plowing ahead, and the interviewer wasn't going to stop him, because its Bono, the lead singer of U2, and one of the wealthiest and most powerful rock stars of our age. We've heard of the conflict between Grace and Law, but what about Grace and Karma?
Remember, Karma can be defined in four words: getting what we deserve. Every other religion in the world practices this philosophy. Also, many Christian-like cults practice this: If I keep working hard at it, I will deserve it, and so when I get it, it will because I EARNED it. True Christianity is grace: getting what we don't deserve. We cannot earn our way into heaven. We cannot work for a relationship with God. He descends to us. He draws us to him. He does the work. He initiates AND he closes the deal. This is grace. We did not deserve this. We should have gotten Karma, but instead God gave us grace.
Does this mean Karma does not exist? No. It DOES exist, but it only exists outside God's grace. Does it exist only in other religions? No. It fully exists outside Christianity, but you can be involved in NO religion. You can be an atheist who does not believe in ANY sort of religion, and you are functioning within the rules of Karma.
How do we get out of Karma and into Grace? The only place where we can live inside of God's grace is in the Christian religion. Only in that place are we immune to the effects of Karma. Not just because as Christians we aren't digging pits and laying snares, but because when we are in Grace we are in God's presence. When we are in his presence, he governs us and he helps us.
A great visual representation is from the 4th chapter of Mark's Gospel. Jesus falls asleep and the storm begins to rage outside the boat. The disciples panic. In their minds, God isn't with them. He's asleep. They freak out and think they are going to drown. Jesus wakes, calms the waters, and then scolds them for having no faith at all. They were living in Karma for that moment. They were expecting the worst to happen to them. And when Jesus solved the problem—in a VERY Godly way—they are so baffled as to who he really is! When we are living in Karma, we are possessed by unbelief.
So, how can we live in grace, so that we don't continually fall into this dreaded Karma that overhangs the world like a dark cloud? The answer lies in Paul's words this morning: “At an acceptable time I have listened to you. On a day of salvation I have helped you.” God picks the time to draw you near to him.
He also picks the place and the how it is going to come about. In the collects we pray, “MAKE US have love for your name.” God does not respond to our love. He gives us love. He created us. He sustains us. He gives us the love with which to love. MAKE US have love, we pray. He loves us first, and any love we have for him has been imparted to us by HIM. Without this gift of love, we would be still living in Karma, hurting each other and being hurt in return.
The collect also says, “He governs and helps those whom HE has set upon the sure foundation of his lovingkindness.” Under grace, we are governed and helped by God, but ONLY because HE has placed us on the sure foundation of his Son, Jesus Christ. He puts us in the boat with Christ. He calms the storm for us. And we respond with faith in him because HE MAKES US LOVE HIM. It feels like we are coming to a conclusion on our own, but HE is the one who is doing it. God is all-powerful. He's not just an impotent God sitting over in the shadows, waiting for us to scan the room and find something there, or to suddenly begin seeking him. We find him only because he seeks us first.
This is some very GOOD NEWS, because we are all sitting in this room because HE wishes us to be here. He brought you here to hear the gospel. He brought me here to preach the gospel. As Paul says in in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” Paul and the members of his ministry spoke frankly with the Corinthians. Their hearts were wide open. They did not try to hide the truth; they spoke openly. God brought them together, and God brings us together. He has given me the words to say. He has given you the ears to hear. Some here will think of the gospel in a new light and come closer to God. Others may stay where they are. Still others may be repelled by the gospel message, because gospel does offend.
So, Bono kept talking about Jesus and Grace v. Karma. The interviewer was repelled, but the interview was put online for people to read. Others out there were not repelled. They were brought closer. For them, it was the acceptable time. For them it was the day of salvation.
Read the Bono Interview here.
Fredric Barrett is Vicar of Church of the Good Shepherd on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.