Rarely a day goes by that I don’t hear or see an appeal to karma as a way of warning someone that something bad is about to happen to them. The popular understanding of karma is the idea that a person’s destiny is determined by the good or bad choices that they make. In particular, people today tend think of karma as a way that those who have wronged them receive retribution. The comments usually sound like this, “to the person who hurt me, just know that karma is cruel and you’ll get what is coming to you.”
This line of thinking assumes that the speaker is completely innocent and that the other person is completely guilty. Then it shows that the person who thinks that they were hurt is sitting back and waiting joyfully to see what terrible things might fall upon the person who hurt them. They also believe that they are going to receive some type of cosmic reward for the injustice that they have suffered.
The popular karmic mindset suffers from two fatal flaws. The first of these is that the person who wishes bad karma on the other person assumes that another person’s sins and flaws and worse than their own. When we look at Scripture, we see all mankind standing before God guilty of sin and lawbreaking. Paul tells us in Romans 3 that there is none who is righteous and that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. When we wish for people to suffer for their sins, we fail to realize that we stand guilty of the very same fate.
At the same time, the one longing for karmic justice fails to understand grace of God that is offered to us all because of Jesus’ death. Jesus took all of our sins, including the ones that we committed against other people, and he gave his life bearing the wrath of God for them. For the person who is in Christ, any justice that he rightfully deserves has fallen upon Christ and now he stands fully righteous before God. This is grace.
What is the reaction of a person who has received God’s grace when he is wronged by another person? Does he sit around waiting on retributive justice? Absolutely not. Instead, the person who has been wronged offers forgiveness and grace knowing that he has been the recipient of ultimate grace. This person now no longer lives in a prison built by bitterness, but walks in the freedom of forgiving and being forgiven.
The great news today is that we are free from sitting around wishing for bad things to happen to the people who have wronged us. We are free to experience forgiveness and to show forgiveness. Karma died because Jesus did.