I have found that almost everyone believes in karma in some form, even those who are not formally religious and even those who claim to be atheists. In its most basic form, karma is a principle of cause and effect where the intents and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering. This is most often expressed when someone believes that a bad person will one day face the consequences of their evil. In other words, people get what they deserve!
While it has its origins in Eastern philosophy and religions, I have often heard even Christians speak of karma. We can even point to such principles as the Golden Rule (see Matthew 7:12), one reaps what one sows (see Galatians 6:7), or those who live by the sword, die by the sword (see Matthew26:52). I would dare say, then, that informally the idea of karma is almost a universally accepted principle.
Reflecting upon this, there is one notable exception – the Death and Resurrection of Jesus! Why do I say that? Jesus, who for us as Christians is known to be God, but for non-believers at least an example of a perfect human being, did not deserve the Cross. Given all His good deeds and the love He expressed and taught, He should have received a reward. Instead He was given the cruelest form of torture and death. But, not only that, He accepted that fate and embraced the Cross. This was the perfect fulfillment of His own teachings, which are contrary to the spirit of karma – love even your enemies. Jesus taught that we should not wish or help in any way to bring about harm even to those that deserve it. He brought that teaching to the Cross.
Of course, someone might argue that the Resurrection was His karma, His reward. However, Jesus’ rising from the dead was not a consequence of His goodness, but a revelation of Who He is! Many others in history have been innocent victims, but they did not rise from dead!
However, there is even a greater way in which the Death and Resurrection of Jesus actually breaks karma. Consider sin and its consequences. Isn’t that the whole point of karma? Because of sin we deserve punishment; we deserve death. Remember the Garden of Eden? Having lost paradise because of disobedience, sin and death entered the world. We inherit that through Original Sin, what one might call the first karma. Through the Sacrifice of Jesus that is broken. Our sin can be forgiven! We can rise from the dead!
Let’s go back to the beginning. Karma is a law of cause and effect. It is like a cosmic pinball machine in which the bounces of the ball are determined by good or bad in a mindless way. It is simply the physical rebounds that are unavoidable – until Jesus. Through Him we are spared the consequences of sin. Through Him we can be forgiven, healed and reborn.
We have yet to see the full fruits of His gift because He has not yet been fully accepted. As we wait for that day, the coming of the Kingdom of God, think of all those who have been saved by Jesus from a life of despair and destruction. Think of all those we know to be reigning in Heaven beyond the grave because has prepared a place for them.
Today, Easter Sunday, is the greatest day in the history of the world, but it is so easy to forget the power of this event. I sincerely hope that my thoughts about the Resurrection through the perspective of karma helps you appreciate Easter in a deeper way. Of course, Jesus doesn’t just automatically free us from the wheel of karma. He must first be embraced. I hope you do and know the gift of His love and His life! Happy Easter!
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at His coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-24)