Saturday, 27 March 2010
The basic idea of karma suggests that for every choice or thought that we make, there is a direct result - some results may not actually manifest themselves, though, until a later life (reincarnation). The disciples in John 9:3 and even Job's friends in the book of Job had this idea, somewhat similar to karma, that if one is suffering, then there must have been some sin that warranted the suffering. While Job never found out why it was that he was made to suffer, he still understood the sovereignty of God in the end and would not curse God. Job was blessed seven times over for this. And Jesus explained that the man was blind simply so that a time like this could come where the glory of God could be revealed, and thus the man's sight was given to him that very day.
In short, neither instance had anything to do with any particular sin (or action) committed. The notion that karma is what it's all about, according to Jesus, had been completely refuted.
But what about the nature of justice? While very similar to karma in that there will be reprecussions, justice brings with it a sense of being a third party or having a third party to issue justice rather than being the very nature of cause-effect for choices made. Furthermore, justice also suggests the idea of punishment in response to illegal actions (and, in general, reward for good actions - a.k.a. blessings). In almost any thought about what true justice is, the notion is that there is a consequence imposed upon or given to the deed doer in response to the deed. Supposedly, the person could even potentially get away with a crime. If justice is something regulated - as opposed to merely being an inevitable reaction to a cause - then justice is limited and possibly escapable, at least in human capacity.
For many of us, that's a scary and infuriating thought. Especially when we've been wronged terribly and the criminal has gotten away with it for whatever reason.
For justice to be in effect, though, there must be laws. Law are set up to make known what is right and wrong. Karma, at least in as much as I could find, has no way of actually defining what is morally just. Strangely enough, karma states that for every good action, there is a good effect, and for every bad actions, a bad effect. Both karma and justice are bound to a principle that there is a defining foundation on which to judge right and wrong. What karma cannot account for is how it determines good from bad because it is simply a reactionary notion. But justice draws directly from a moral standard by its very nature. Its purpose is to take into account the deed done and its severity, the motives, as well as the actual overall results.
In an effort to simplify all of that: justice cannot function without a moral foundation upon which to define its very nature. If justice has no definition of right and wrong, then justice does not exist at that instance.
If we assume that there is a definitive idea of right and wrong, though, then we can compare actions according to the moral guidelines given. And if a law of morality is crossed, justice seeks to impose a proper consequence.
To restate what I stated earlier: justice regulated, which means it must be purposefully put into action, compared to karma which suggests a reaction will come ultimately. Justice seeks to correct unbalanced morality while karma just reacts.
A few common notions of justice, as listed in Wikipedia, include these:
1) Retributive: regulates proportionate response to crime proven by lawful evidence, so that punishment is justly imposed and considered as morally-correct and fully deserved.
2) Law of Retaliation: a military theory of retributive justice, which says that reciprocity should be equal to the wrong suffered; "life for life, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
3) Restorative: is concerned not so much with retribution and punishment as with (a) making the victim whole and (b) reintegrating the offender into society. This approach frequently brings an offender and a victim together, so that the offender can better understand the effect his/her offense had on the victim.
Notice the differences in all three of these in comparison to karma.
Karma would behave more like the law of retaliation, pay no mind to the morally-correct effect, and care nothing for restoration. And yet, God employs all three!
First, God already has all the evidence and will act accordingly:
"Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don't speak with such arrogance! For the LORD is a God who knows what You have done; He will judge your actions" (1 Samuel 2:3). Don't excuse yourself by saying, "Look, we didn't know." For God understands all hearts, and He sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve (Proverbs 24:12).
Secondly, God will repay what is deserved in a balanced manner:
But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise (Exodus 21:23-25).
Last, God seeks hold people personally responsible for those they hurt:
Now suppose two men quarrel, and one hits the other with a stone or fist, and the injured person does not die but is confined to bed. If he is later able to walk outside again, even with a crutch, the assailant will not be punished but must compensate his victim for lost wages and provide for his full recovery (Exodus 21:18-19).
And if those seem harsh or leave you wondering if God will judge you fairly, also consider this:
But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 9:7-9).
It is certainly a comfort to know that the Almighty God will rule without a corrupt sense of justice. It's true, no one wants to suffer for the crimes they have committed, but at least no one will suffer more than they ought to by God's hand. And if we do suffer more than is fair by the hands of others, God will act on our behalf to repay the wrongs committed against us.
And yet, I would not be surprised if someone came to me saying, "What I deserve will leave me with nothing left. I cannot escape my punishment. I am doomed and there is no hope for me."
Then I offer you this hope: While there will always be certain consequences to endure, there is a marvelous gift offered to us directly from God. Yes, the God of justice, who never waivers from His righteousness, offers a gift of pardon from ultimate, inescapable judgment.
Click here for my entire series of "Karma, Justice, & Grace"
Do you see a difference between karma and justice? If God is on the judge's seat, do you find yourself in favor of justice or would you rather trust in karma? If karma is all there is, how do we determine what is truly just and fair and right?