Instant Karma or Amazing Grace?
It is written:
You shall reap what you sow; sow righteousness and reap love; give, and it will be given to you… with the measure you use, it will be measured to you; cast your bread upon the waters, and it will return to you, multiplied.” (Proverbs 1:31, 5:22, 11:18, 24-25, 14:14, 21:13, 22:8; Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6; Hosea 10:12; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-9; James 3:17-18)
Kind of sounds like the Hindu and Buddhist concept of Karma, right? Or the “street smarts” that pronounces: “what goes around, comes around”… but Judeo-Christian thought about the concept of deeds vs. consequences is neither of those things.
Both of those concepts (“Karma” and the idea of a human’s deeds resulting in just consequences in their own mortal lifetime) do not appear to be manifest in this broken world around us.
Very bad things happen to innocent and even “good” (by worldly standards) people, and very “bad”… abusive, selfish, wicked and cruel people seem to prosper (again, by worldly standards) and lead long and materially rich lives; some of them even rule nations or control those who do.
Tell me what bad thing the fetal human did to deserve being dismembered in its mother’s womb and killed before ever having a chance to be born; the Hindus and Buddhists say it must be karma – the aborted fetus or child born into extreme poverty, slavery, or with painful and terminal birth defects, the prepubescent girl or boy molested as a sex-object or blown up or gunned down must have been a bad creature in a previous life to suffer low status, physical degradation, or torturous death in this one.
They would have you believe that Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and their ilk are somewhere reincarnate as lowly and insensate creatures, because of their murder of millions upon millions of people, or have been“reset” to try again to be “good” until they finally win the reward of being good enough to meld into the “force” or the multiverse of millions of gods.
Be a “good” worm, bacterium, dog, cow, or a “good person” long enough (thru multiple lifetimes) and good enough, and you’ll keep getting chances to work your way out of the job of being anything at all, in this world, at least.
Further, you would need to accept that those millions and millions of seemingly innocent men, women, and children of the last century deserved to be murdered because of their negative Karma. Again, these beliefs would not seem to be congruent with the reality of human goodness and evil that we see around us.
The last three centuries saw the Western (which is to say: the Judeo-Christian) world bringing unprecedented progress in advancing concepts of Human rights, in easing Human suffering and bringing more and better quality of life advancements to more and more people, globally, than ever before in recorded history. Yet the last century also saw mass murder on an unprecedented scale, from the aforementioned “leaders” and genocidal maniacs and uncounted other “bad” creatures; if this is merely “karma” playing out, it would seem than billions upon billions of creatures, great and small, are moving through multiple lifetimes in the direction of increased suffering, not less.
Christians believe that “good” generates “good” and “bad”, “bad”, but also that, because we are born the first time to a broken species in a broken world, a world and a race that was broken by our first ancestors doubting the goodness of God, any “goodness” that we may achieve is inadequate to make us gods or to give us the power to be to be “born again” of our own will and power and deeds as better creatures.
We believe our happy and redeemed lives, with all brokenness repaired, and all failures, mistakes and sins “paid for” and forgotten, by the will and the deeds of the Christ (not our “karma”), will continue after we are “born again”, spiritually, by belief in and acceptance of His substitutional sacrifice. We believe it’s this second rebirth that prevents a second and final death that forever separates us from eternal life in the presence of God’s glory (Jude 1:12; Revelation 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8).
Any merely human “good” and “following of the rules” that I do is mere garbage or manure (Greek: human waste… literally “shit”) or filthy (Hebrew: “menstrual”) rags (Philippians 3:4–9; Isaiah 64:6), completely insufficient to trigger a reciprocal good so large as to make me eligible to enjoy eternity in the presence of the absolute Goodness and Love that is the Triune God.
After all, I may not even KNOW what is truly good and bad about my circumstances and conduct. Many of the killers of my brother and sisters in arms, and non-combatant civilians, too, truly believed that they were following “The god’s” (Arabic: Allah) rules and doing good in his eyes by those murders.
I have experienced things that I thought were “bad”, only to come to count them as blessings, for what they taught me about the truly good and positive things in my life. Does my innocent ignorance or misidentification of what is good and bad deserve repeated punishment or reward by a non-sentient and remorseless “karma”?
If that’s the way it works, “good” and “bad” relate to spiritual reality in the same way “positive” and “negative” relate to electromagnetism and physics – having no spiritual value or meaning beyond being simply terms describing elements of a mechanistic reaction – a to and fro of particles or waves that “just is what it is”-- with no larger value or meaning.
I’m so very glad that “karma” doesn’t control my fate, and that Grace does; I don’t want justice… I want, I need, I plead, for “mercy” and forgiveness.
And I have been granted it, by God’s grace and His goodness, not my own. I hope and I pray that that is true, or will become so, for all “that have ears to hear” and eyes to see.
I cannot be good enough to know God and see Him face to face, as He has promised. But He has been good enough to let me know Him and to do the good that He has shown me and equipped me to do, and I will see Him in the light of that goodness that is His Goodness, not my own.
And, whatever your status or beliefs, I hope the rest of your week and weekend are wonderful and relaxing in the knowledge that John Lennon was wrong – “instant karma” ain’t going to “get you” (but the “hound of heaven” might, and that would be wonderful, indeed); God Bless.