Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Karma vs. Gospel

“It’s not fair!” If you have a child over the age of about 5, then you have probably heard this more times than you care to think about. My 6, soon to be, 7-year old says it about three times a day. Kids have an inherent sense that things should go their way, and when they don’t, it makes them upset. Come to think of it, kids aren’t the only ones who think that way, are they? We all pretty much want things to go our way, and it’s very easy to hold ourselves a pity party when we don’t, isn’t it?

Now, there is something that is very good and right about this. We should desire right to overcome wrong. We have ingrained in us a sense of justice, that there are some things in the world that are not as they should be, and those things should be fixed. We should work for justice in our homes and in our workplaces and in our world. This is a good and important goal.

There is only one problem with this. We do not live in a just world. This world is not “fair.” Things don’t always go as we would hope. Our lives get messed up, dinged up, banged up and torn up. And when this happens, it is very easy for us to look up to God, and scream, “It’s not fair!” How many times have you had something go wrong and thought, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” It’s the same question the 6-year old is asking, in a different form.

The problem with this question is that it is based on a wrong premise. We assume that the world is basically okay, and that things basically work out for people if they just act right and live right. Good behavior is rewarded. Bad behavior is punished. What comes around goes around. You get what you deserve. The problem with this line of thinking, especially for those who claim to be Christians, is that it is antithetical to the Gospel. It’s not just that this is not a Christian way of thinking. It is that it is opposed to the right Christian way of thinking.

Let me show you what I mean. The idea that what comes around goes around, and that people get what they deserve, is basically a Hindu or Buddhist idea. It’s called Karma. And I’ve heard many, many professing Christians talk about Karma coming back to bite someone. It drives me crazy; makes me want to hurl myself out of a window somewhere. You see, Karma is the opposite of the Gospel. Karma says you get what you deserve. The Gospel says if you got what you deserved, then you would be dead and in Hell at this very moment. Instead, the Gospel says that Jesus got what you deserved. You deserved death. You deserved punishment. Because you aren’t as good as you think you are. As a matter of fact, you’re pretty messed up. So Jesus came and he took that punishment you deserved upon himself.

And because this is true, it totally flips the questions when it comes to our suffering and difficulties. Because at the root of the “What did I do to deserve this,” question lies a bigger question. “If God is a God of love, then how could this happen to me?” And Jesus answered that question at the Cross. Jesus did everything he needed to do to show you how much he loved you, by dying in your place on the Cross. That’s the answer to the question, “Does God love me?” Of course he does; he died for you. That act of supreme and most valuable love is all the evidence you need of his love. Now, that act comes with a promise that all wrongs will be righted eventually. Don’t doubt; every wrong will be righted. Justice will eventually be done. There is not a single sin that will go unpunished. Every sin will get it’s just desserts, either through eternal punishment in Hell, or through the punishment Jesus took on the Cross. And righteous living will be rewarded. We will have an eternity of no troubles, ever again.

So this changes the equation immensely. For those of us who have accepted this love, and who have turned to the Jesus who died for us, we don’t have to ask these questions when difficulties come. We know God loves us. We are certain that he is for us. And since we are certain of this, when trouble comes, we begin to ask different questions, like “What is the purpose of this difficulty? What is God trying to show me through this? How can I glorify the God who saved me through this?” We can do this because we are secure in God’s love, certain that justice will eventually be done, and understanding that God is working a much bigger plan through everything that happens in our lives, a plan that involves him glorifying himself, and a plan that we will see in the long run, is for our good.

So reject Karma. Embrace the Gospel. Understand life is not fair, at least not yet. And hold onto the fact that God has demonstrated his love for us in this, “that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

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