Thursday, July 29, 2010

Karma vs. Grace

The following is a conversation that was recently shared between my pastor, TJ Campo, and a woman in Starbucks:

WOMAN: "Ah, I see you're reading a spiritual book. I'm really into spiritual things, especially karma."

TJ: "Actually, what I'm into is the opposite of karma."

WOMAN: "Oh really? What's that?"

TJ: "Grace."

Below is a note that TJ wrote on Facebook as a follow up to that conversation:

Comments on Karma, Grace and Sow OnShare. Today at 3:47pm

Karma is very different from the basic law of “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” – sure, Christians believe that if you eat too much, you’ll get fat and if you lie to people, you’ll lose your friends and if you care about people and help them, you’ll probably find friends and if you work hard you’ll probably get more money than people who don’t or can’t. That’s not Karma; it’s cause and effect. And there’s even a place in our thinking about God rewarding us (though, even that is all about grace). A few years ago I preached on the “sowing and reaping” passage and wondered if there was a connection to the previous verse (CONTEXT!!)
“And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life” Galatians 6.6-9

The idea is: you need someone to tell you the Good News over and over again (“him who teaches”) so take care of that person. If you invest your time in the Good News - hearing it, learning it, receiving it and believing it - it will bear fruit in your life. This isn’t Karma it’s grace received by faith.

Sorry to get all verbose on you but it really is THE big deal. All religion and human systems of morality are forms of Karma, quid-pro-quo (this for that – you do for God and then God responds by blessing you, saving you, protecting you). The Gospel turns that upside down – God raises you from the dead, gives you new life, a new destiny and you respond by walking toward that new destiny.

Hey, sometime read Martin Luther’s introduction to his commentary on Galatians; it’ll blow you away. Written 500 years ago, it still sounds so contemporary and relevant and LIBERATING! I guess that’s the thing: liberation. Karma imprisons people. In Hinduism people are imprisoned to the endless cycles of death and rebirth in reincarnation – the fruit of Karma. In all other religion people are trapped in fear (“If I’m honest I must admit that I don’t measure up to God’s expectations…I’ll be judged!”) or flight (“Forget God and morality – I’m my own judge – I live by my own standards – don’t judge me and I won’t judge you!”). Grace leads to liberation: “Cheer up – you’re more screwed up than you know and yet in trusting the doing and dying of Jesus, you’re more cherished, embraced and secure than you’ll ever imagine!”


(Here’s the commentary, Luther’s Introduction starts on p. xv --

(Here’s the topic addressed by a less-than-famous, modern theologian: )

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