Thursday, May 14, 2009

Karma . . . or something better?

For a couple of years I worked at the Doubletree with a guy that was obsessed with the idea of karma. When someone didn't tip him, he consoled himself with the confidence that this same person would get a flat tire on the highway and no one would stop for them. Aside from the fact that it was a very resentful way to walk through life, I was always baffled how he could reconcile the idea of karma with the Christianity he claimed.

Of course, I understand the appeal of karma for those that don't believe in a personal God. It's comforting to think that something or someone out there is balancing the scales of our lives, good for good and bad for bad. The cold, hard reality that we see from day to day, however, is less than karmic. Hateful, selfish people often slide through life wealthy and unpunished. Wonderful, loving people fall victim to terrible crimes. And what do we make of the tragedies that take so many lives in one fell swoop? We cannot simply assume that every person was equally deserving such a fate.

Yet the Bible assures us that something like karma will take place some day. Paul writes the following in 2 Thessalonians 1:

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (verses 6, 7 and 8)

However, there will be one major difference between karma and the judgment of God. Grace and mercy have also be offered and given through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is why I was so confused by my co-worker who claimed to be a Christian. Two major themes in Christianity had seemed to make no real impact in his day to day life: the grace of God and the justice of God.

He seemed to to have no practical confidence in the justice of God, otherwise he could rely in God's charge: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath" (Rom. 12:19). Even if we do not see God's wrath in this life, we know that God will be the perfect judge at the end of all things.

But second, and more troubling to me, was his absence of the grace of God. As children of God who have been forgiven all—I mean ALL—how can we not forgive those who have wronged us? When compared with our sin against God, even the greatest sin one person can commit against another is small.

So, this week, consider what it means to leave room for God's wrath, meditate on how you can trust God in his justice, and strive to reflect God in his grace.

For further reading: Matthew 18:21-35

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