I’ve been thinking for a while that I ought to do a post of all the different sermon podcasts that I subscribe to on a weekly basis, with a little explanation of what I like about them. That may be coming in the near future, but this post isn’t it. For now, I’ll just say that one name that will be near the top of that list is Matt Chandler from the Village Church outside of Dallas, Texas. The man is a great preacher. He makes sarcastic references about “bringing the sexy back.” He’s preaching slowly through Ecclesiastes. I like this guy a lot.
A few weeks ago, he made reference to the idea of Karma. As the great one-hit wonder the New Radicals said, we only get what we give. The prevailing philosophy of the world, just under the surface, is the idea that if you receive blessings or sufferings, it traces back to something good or bad that you did. We hear this same idea in the church all too often, in a slightly sanctified version. People are blessed because of their obedience, or punished to purge out some hidden sin in their lives. And none of that is true. Chandler called it “Love’s great interruption.” It was love that said that there’s more going on here than some cosmic balancing act.
For some weird reason, I got to thinking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. If you grew up in the church, you know the story like a nursery rhyme. If you didn’t, it’d probably sound like one of the most bizarre little tales ever told. The basics is that these 3 oddly-named young men refused to bow down to and worship a statue of their king. The king then sentenced them to be thrown into his big furnace to be burned for such insolence. They experienced the unfairness of the world, as they for simply obeying the First Commandment. They were doing the right thing, after all. Yet when they were thrown into the furnace, they were not burned. Instead, they got to hang out with Jesus a few thousand years before He would be incarnated.
I wouldn’t mind it if it always worked that way. The injustice of the world is brought against these faithful young men, yet it can’t touch them. They never really suffered in the flames. They were blessed for their faithfulness. And I honestly don’t get it, because the fires that I feel seem real enough right now.
I wonder if Karma is just another grab at artificial control. When life doesn’t make sense, the easiest thing often seems to be to set up everything in some big spreadsheet of credits and debits and use that to explain your current reality. It doesn’t even matter if it’s true or not, only if it makes you feel a little better for a little while – if this constructed story makes sense for just a few minutes.
I’ve been thinking in regards to some hard things going on in the lives of some of my friends right now. In some cases, there are bad decisions that have painful consequences both direct and indirect. In others, there just isn’t that. And I think in both cases its a mistake to try to use that kind of a flawed evaluation.
In John 9, a blind man is brought before Jesus. It surprises me that His disciples ask Him, “who sinned that this man was born blind?” It would have made sense if the Pharisees or the crowd asked Jesus this. I guess I figured the disciples should have known better. Jesus answers the question in a strange way. He doesn’t acknowledge anyone’s sin, but says “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” And then Jesus heals the man.
It takes a lot of faith to say that there is more going on in all these sufferings than we can see right now. It’s much easier to just beat yourself up and make yourself the tragic, heroic victim of Karma. Yet God doesn’t work that way. Don’t you believe it for a second. Love is a great interruption to the apparent ways of the world.