Friday, September 02, 2005

Acknowledging both karma and grace

The Doctor is In, springboarding off a long quote from U2's Bono, riffs on karma and grace (Hat tip: The Christian Carnival at Crossroads). What makes Christianity different from other religions? All other religions call folks to act differently, while Christ calls us to become different beings:
What is needed is a core inner transformation: we must become someone different. We are hard-wired to take–we need to be transformed to give. Trying to be other-oriented–following the rules, being a good person–without this transformation is counter-productive: it breeds resentment, self-righteousness, pride, self-sufficiency. But this inner transformation cannot be brought about by ourselves–it must come through others, and above all, from Another. But once this happens–and our will must be broken before it can–the miracle of motive change begins to take place.

When I act, I do so for one of two reasons: I do so because I have to, or I do so because I want to. While these motives may overlap, it is–not surprisingly–much easier to do the things I want to do than those I have to do. Karma is about doing that which I have to do–to placate a demanding God, to save my own skin. The miracle of grace is the willingness–the desire–to do that which is contrary to my nature, yet beneficial to my spirit.

Yet grace does not instantly transform–it seems rather to thrive in the fertile manure of failure. Those who grasp grace still fail at marriages, have rebellious children, hurt others, act selfishly, pursue wealth and the material. But the seditious espionage of grace slowly erodes the forces that drive these disasters, changing–from the inside out, one small step at a time–the corruption of self to the contentment of service. Failure–the judgment and condemnation of Karma–becomes the very seed of recreation, of new life: from the stench of manure will grow the fragrance and beauty of a flowering garden.
It's an interesting thought that "karma" is true -- as far as it goes. It's just an Eastern religious way of talking about moral law. You reap what you sow, what goes up must come down, for every moral or immoral action there's an equal and opposite reaction. Praise God that the redeemed in Christ are no longer under law, but under grace.


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