Sunday, February 05, 2006
Grace Trumps Karma
We live in unusual times. I watched the National Prayer Breakfast from Washington on Thursday and the keynote speaker was Bono from the rock group U2. Faith and I were privileged to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in 1996 and it is an elegant affair. Bono held them spellbound with his talk of redemption, and love, and his crusade for the eradication of AIDS and world poverty.
There is something that Bono said in a recent book about his life that struck a real chord and I want to share it with you. He said, speaking of His need for Christ that “we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma and into one of grace.”
I was fascinated that he used a term like Karma, which is a crucial doctrine of both Hinduism and Buddhism, to present a contrast in terms of his relationship to Christ. I began to do some research and learned that some 1.5 billion people on this planet, primarily in Asia, believe in Karma as a foundational fact of life. It is rooted in their culture and they believe in it like you and I believe that the sun rises everyday.
So what is Karma as understood in Buddhism and Hinduism? Simply stated it is
“the force generated by a person's actions...to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence” (transmigration has to do with the soul transferring to another body after death-kind of like recycling)
Now while we do not believe in karma we do have a similar doctrine in Christianity known as "the law of reaping and sowing"
Galatians 6:7 (NKJV) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for
whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Every Christian should understand this principle- that our actions in this life will affect our circumstances now and for eternity. The difference lies in the fact that we do not believe in reincarnation- we are not reborn in different forms in order to either be punished or rewarded for our previous life.
Those who believe in karma believe that if you had good karma in the previous life you will be reborn into a higher form of life. For those who had bad karma, it follows you into the next life and you suffer for it.
Karma is a basic doctrine of almost one quarter of the worlds population. This accounts for a great deal of suffering worldwide because in such a culture relieving suffering is wrong since in so doing you are interfering with their karma, and you make it impossible for them to pay off their bad karma and be reincarnated in a better state. Suffering is redemption.
Grace trumps karma because Jesus taught us to alleviate suffering, and to show compassion on the poor and needy. Mother Teresa spent her life sharing the love of Christ with people who were under the devilish spell of karma. She stunned their world with such love. She lived out what Jesus said…
And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you,
inasmuch as you did it to one of the least these My brethren, you did
it to Me.' Matthew 25:40
But even more important than relieving suffering is providing forgiveness and washing away all my sins. I do not have to reap what I have sown, and for the Hindu and the Buddhist, he does not have to live with the Bad Karma that his religion places on him like a noose.
It’s GRACE and It’s Amazing
In What's So Amazing about Grace?, Philip Yancey recounts this story about C. S. Lewis: During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.
They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
Ephes. 2:8-9 NASB "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."