If Karma is true, we are all screwed
UNSPLASH/Volkan OlmezIf Karma is true, pray, we are screwed.

The idea that we get what we deserve is an appealing way to look at the world. While some of us might not admit that we actually believe in Karma, many of us believe it without even realizing it. People, regardless of their faith background, like to think that if they do something good, something good will happen in return.

If Karma is true, we're all screwed.

If somebody believes in Karma and believes things are going well for them, they have an arrogant view of themselves. Karma suggests that everybody gets what they deserve. This means that if somebody is rewarded, they get the credit. And if somebody is punished, they get the blame.

If things are going well - if you got the job, the marriage, the house - then you are receiving rewards for what you have done. But if things are going poorly - if you lost your job, your marriage is falling apart, or you have an incurable disease - then you are receiving exactly what you deserve.

In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve. Usually, men of ordinary intellect cannot comprehend the actual reason or reasons. The definite invisible cause or causes of the visible effect is not necessarily confined to the present life, they may be traced to a proximate or remote past birth. - Buddhanet.net

You'd better hope you were really good in your past lives!

This worldview runs totally contrary to the Christian God's message of grace. Grace is the enemy of Karma.

What is grace? Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. - Paul Zahl

Grace knows what we deserve. And it gives us the opposite. And in the face of things going poorly, grace - instead of trying to answer why - simply promises to be with us in the midst of the pain.

While Karma suggests that we end up damned, grace gives us eternal life. While Karma requires an eye-for-an-eye, grace turns the other cheek. While Karma always balances the scales, grace never stops giving because the scales will never balance (God always gives more). While Karma suggests that it is all about our work, grace suggests that it is all about the work of Jesus.

If Karma were applied as a teaching of Christianity, Karma would be all Law. Karma relies on our own effort to add weight to the scale of "good" in our life. Karma relies on our own efforts to justify ourselves with enough good to outweigh the bad.

What if the Apostle Paul believed in Karma?

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." - Romans 3:11-12

Paul suggests that if Karma were true, we're all going to hell. This is what makes grace so scandalous to the human mind. We don't get what we deserve. We deserve punishment. We deserve death.

What is Karma's answer to death? Cancer? Divorce? We deserved it. It's punishment.

Grace doesn't play by these rules. Grace is the scandal that never gives us what we deserve and always gives us what we need:

Mercy.

Peace.

Hope.

Joy.

Forgiveness.

The band Relient K once described this by saying, "But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." Grace says what the Law never will. Grace creates beauty, hope, and peace that rests not in our own efforts but in the finished work of Jesus.

Many Christians have become functional Buddhists, trusting in their own works, believing a theology that paints everything within a system of obedience, rewards, and punishment - a system that is often eerily similar to Karma.

This isn't Christianity, it's B.S. This is a Law-based system that gives people false assurance and burdened consciences - exactly what every other religion offers. Every religion besides Christianity is Law-based.

And while the work of the Law is important in Christianity, the Law never has the last word. When the Law gets the last word, we find ourselves crushed and without hope. Grace is the pronouncement of "done" that quiets words that judge.

If people are looking for good Karma - guilt in failure or advice to balance to scales - they can get that anywhere. From Islam to Buddhism to Atheism, "do this" or "don't do this" is the primary message. From the bestseller list to mommy-bloggers, the Law is the default message.

If you're looking for peace, Karma doesn't offer it. If you're looking for hope, Karma doesn't point to it. Mercy? Karma's got nothing.

What you're looking for can be found in the Church. Grace is given freely by the family of God. Jesus gives peace, hope, and mercy and it has nothing to do with obedience, rewards, or punishment.

If you're looking for a perfect Christian church, you won't find one. They're all filled with hypocrites who like to point out other people's sin before their own. They're made up of gossips, liars, and cheaters. Sin does to a church what it does to everyone - it ruins relationships, including in the family of God.

The Church has a lot of problems, but grace ain't one. Grace is the one thing that unites the church. It is the one thing that breaks down barriers between sinners. Every age, every race, and every socio-economic status are united by one thing, "Jesus Christ and him crucified."

If somebody is looking for a self-help program, they aren't going to come to your church - the world offers better ones. If somebody is looking for the structure of a religious life, they have thousands of religions to choose from. In fact, the demands of secular life are difficult enough that most people don't need religion to add to it.

There is no place but the Church that forgives with no questions asked. If somebody is a rebel, an outcast, or on the verge of death, the Church of Jesus specializes in the one who comes for the rebels, welcomes in the outcasts, and raises the dead. The death and resurrection sets the Church apart from the world, no one else can offer that to the world, including Buddha.

Grace gets the last word.

"It is finished."

RJ Grunewald serves as Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan. You can follow him at http://www.rjgrune.com 

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