Sunday, 28 March 2010
Karma. The idea that every action has a natural, inescapable reaction. Every choice will be met with an inevitable consequence.
Justice. The way through which actions are answered. Rights are rewarded and crimes are punished and morality identified and made clear.
The very basic principles of karma do ring true, and we can trust that true justice will always set (or keep) things as they ought to be. Yet, for many of us, that's a scary thought. For we know that, according to justice, we deserve some very severe consequences for the wrongs we have committed. And no matter how much we wish we could change what we have done, we cannot, and thus, we cannot change the punishment due to us.
This natural fact, whether we believe in God or not, is so ingrained into our very lives that the idea that we might somehow be spared from the dire consequences is like believing we can breath in space without a space suit. We are very aware of the fact that there is a right and wrong; even those who try very hard (and some very successfully) to believe that they are somehow exempt from the law still find themselves bound by this universal rule of existence. And the awareness of that fact is what scares us all the most: not one of us are exempt from the Ultimate Consequence: death.
Spiritual death. The loss of one's self. Whether you think that we will simple cease to exist entirely as if we never existed at all or that we will live in Hell in endless suffering, one thing is for sure: no one who understands the value of life truly wants to die. Why is it that we fight so hard for life even while we know our end will come eventually? Even the elderly, though healthy yet still a few steps away from their last days, do what they can to LIVE their lives. Those who contemplate suicide often do so with fear. It seems that we want to live! Yet we know that death is the final answer.
Or is it?
If karma and justice are - more or less - part of the unmistakable equation, how can we possibly have any hope?
Many people will likely respond with Jesus' death on the cross. And they would be so right! But take a look at Psalm 103:9-14.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
Even with this revelation straight from the Bible, many people will still find it hard to believe. We are so used to justice being handed out in a similar way that karma is sure to "get us". But here we see that God actually chooses to withhold His hand instead of implementing justice deserved.
But what is this thing that God is doing? What is it called? My fellow humans, it's called "grace". For a basic answer, The Free Dictionary says grace is "a favor rendered by one who need not do so", and it is "divine love and protection bestowed freely on people." It is also "mercy", "the free and unmerited favor of God shown towards man".
It is in this way that God set us apart - sanctified, as the Christian term goes - from the doom of Hell. This is ultimately shown by Jesus' death on the cross, where Jesus suffered the ultimate penalty for sins He did not commit - He was completely blameless (unless you blame Him for doing good, in which case He is guilty).
But you see, God's grace does not extend solely to the ultimate consequence - that which would separate us from His presence and love. God's grace also protects us from the dangers that often come our way...even those of our own doing.
David said this in prayer to God:
LORD, don't hold back Your tender mercies from me. Let Your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles surround me—too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can't see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.
Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, "Aha! We've got him now!"
But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness in You. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, "The LORD is great!"
As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in His thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay (Psalm 40:11-17).
Consider also this passage:
In Your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey Your laws (Psalm 119:88).
And in another instance, as found in Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron, the older brother and sister of Moses, criticized Moses for something they thought was wrong but they didn't bring the issue up with Moses or God directly. God heard them talking amongst themselves. He then called all three together to the Tabernacle. God scolded both Aaron and Miriam for their critical hearts, and when God left their presence at the Tabernacle, they found Miriam struck with leprosy.
When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he cried out to Moses, "Oh, my master! Please don't punish us for this sin we have so foolishly committed. Don't let her be like a stillborn baby, already decayed at birth."
So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, I beg You, please heal her!"
But the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had done nothing more than spit in her face, wouldn't she be defiled for seven days? So keep her outside the camp for seven days, and after that she may be accepted back."
So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again (Numbers 12:10b-15).
Do you see? Especially with Miriam and the grace God gave her. And there are many other examples, too.
There are countless things we have done that deserve the natural consequences our choices produce - karma, if you will. But because God is judge and has the authority to determine and issue our sentencing, He can also choose to see beyond the mere cause-effect situation. God is moved also by a humble heart, by compassion, and love. It is not His desire that we should suffer, but He does let us suffer sometimes in order that we should learn that our way is not the best - oh, how many times must we learn that lesson over again?
And yet here we see God stepping in and saying, "Though you should reap the suffering you have sown, I will give you a harvest to bless you, instead." God does this so you will know that He is not just a God of justice, but also a God of mercy and kindness; He recognizes our suffering even when we earned it and is moved deep in His heart. He sees our tears and cries with us. In this, He fulfills His own message given through Paul, "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).
Karma is cold and merely reactionary.
Justice is fair but can result in still more suffering.
But grace allows for restoration and reconciliation.
And that same grace was shown when God saw that we were doomed to suffer in Hell and immediately set in motion a plan to save us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take our place, and Jesus willingly went, and died for us so we wouldn't have to. Karma had its way: a bad action was done that caused a negative reaction to come about. Justice was served: the punishment deemed appropriate was fulfilled with someone's death. Grace was given: Jesus died willingly so we did not have to.
This entry is part 3 of a 3-part series. Click here to read it all.
If you knew your worst mistakes or crimes could be and are forgiven by God, would that help you in how you live your life? Do you think there is anything God will not forgive you for? What does the Bible have to say about our sins and their consequences?