Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to...
I first came across Fred von Kamecke via another blog I read regularly. Fred's book Busted had just been released. After ordering and reading the book I was blown away. Fred had written THE BEST book on aplogetics I have ever read. Fred was one of my guests on 5 Questions with... and participated, in conjunction with Zondervan, a massive book giveaway on this very blog. Fred von Kamecke is an assistant pastor at The Chapel of Lake County, Illinois. So grab a cup of coffee, enjoy Fred's post and then go check out his book!
As I sat with some neighbors on a cool night, gathered around the warm embers of a campfire, the conversation drifted toward how people generally get what’s coming to them, or “What goes around comes around.” One neighbor said it was karma and that karma is in the Bible. It wasn’t the time for a discussion about comparative religions and biblical theology, so I didn’t pursue it. But it did get me thinking.
By thinking that karma is in the Bible, I think my neighbor had “sowing and reaping” in mind. Jesus once said, while contemplating the opportunities in Samaria, “the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true” (John 4:37 NIV). Paul reminded the Corinthians about their pledge, but warned, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). And elsewhere he said: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
So sowing and reaping is clearly biblical, but does it really square with karma? How are they alike? How are they different?
As for how they’re alike, both karma and sowing and reaping share the idea of getting what’s coming to you, whether good or bad. Your actions return to you. This similarity leaves people with the impression that they are really the same thing, but that just isn’t so.
Now, as for their differences, karma is a major feature in Hinduism. In Hinduism, God isn’t a person, but rather an “It,” an impersonal force called Brahman. All that there is, is Brahman. Brahman didn’t create the universe; Brahman is the universe. All of the galaxies, spirits, gods and goddesses, mountains, rocks, bugs, and plants — and yes, people — all are merely visible expressions of the mysterious one, Brahman.
The problem, according to Hinduism, is that we’ve forgotten our true identity, and it takes several lifetimes to realize it and reach enlightenment. Until then, we’re stuck in the wheel of reincarnation — a seemingly endless cycle of birth, death, rebirth, death, etc. As we go about our lives, the things we do (or fail to do) begin to accrue to our karma account. If you are good and generous, you’ll be rewarded in the next life. If you’re an ornery cuss in this life, you’re going to get nailed in the next. That’s why some Hindus get so irritated with Christians trying to help the destitute on the streets of Calcutta. The starving, blind, and maimed widow left begging for scraps is just working out her bad karma from a past life. Don’t help her or you’ll just mess up the process. Karma, you see, is a matter of fate. You get what’s coming to you — period.
This brings us to another important difference. Between birth and death, karma has no room for mercy, grace, compassion, love, or forgiveness. While we’re at it, since all is Brahman (the one overarching reality), then all suffering, sin, and death are ultimately illusions. They are all the mysterious outworkings of the reality that lies behind our muddled lives.
The idea of sowing and reaping is very different because the biblical context is distinct from Hinduism. First of all, God is personal and distinct from his creation. Sin and death are realities, as seen in the long run of a very bloody history in an unjust world going increasingly mad. Sin is running amok. We are not born with the baggage of previous lives; we’re simply born in sin. We also don’t have endless chances to get it right. We’re each given one shot at life, and then comes judgment.
Now we’re ready for the biggest difference of all: Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven in this life, and reap the benefits of that change in this life, and further enjoy this blessedness beyond our death and into eternity. There can still be, and often are, earthly repercussions and consequences of the sinful things we’ve done. But it doesn’t matter what we’ve done, how horrible, or for how long. When we come to Jesus in genuine faith, he forgives all our sins.
Yes, we’ll reap what we sow, but God gives us the chance to start planting different seeds for a different harvest. That’s why Paul warned the Christians in Galatia to stop sowing to their sinful nature (with its harvest of certain destruction) and to start sowing a different seed. The new goal is to live in such a way that reaps a harvest of spiritual fruit — a life that brings a smile to the heart of the Holy Spirit.