Theology Thursday: The Rescue of Grace from Karma

Ray Meadows

cross on a hill in front of the sun rising

Often, my students will refer to a situation or event as karma. We hear the term in public discourse quite a bit in our culture. When my students use it, I get to explain that it is, in reality, a Hindu concept, although it’s found in a few other faith systems. The concept describes how one’s thoughts, words and deeds have consequence for one’s placement in the next life.

This means, according to Hindu scholars, that unless you observe all the rites and rituals of Hinduism, you will be reborn (Samsara) as a lessor being, for example, a cow, a dog, a bug, insect, etc. If you are good at observing the Hindu rituals and worship of one or more of their 330 million (that is not a typo) gods, then you may be reborn into a higher caste, wealthier or with better health (closer to gods) or something along this line. Most importantly, there is no such thing as forgiveness in Hinduism - all consequences are inevitable and inescapable.

There is also an Americanized version of the concept, which is very similar to the biblical understanding of ‘reaping and sowing.’ You may have heard, “you will reap what you sow.” Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” This means that those who ‘sow’ (or plant) the things of man, will get them back and if you sow the things of God, we will get those back.

The problem is, humans are horrible at sowing the things of God – we fail a lot! Fortunately, God is not a God of karma, but a God of grace and mercy. Even when we sow things that are ungodly, the things of man, if we confess our sin, turn from them and turn to Jesus in faith, He will not give us what we deserve but instead, provide what we do not, forgiveness and life. 1 John 1:8-9 says “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

There is an old hymn that has these words “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There, where the blood of the Lamb was spilled. Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!” (Grace Greater than Our Sin, by Julia Johnston). Praise the Lord! The God of the Bible is God of grace and not a God of Karma.

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