[Part 1, Chapter 4]
On the surface, I can understand karma. Rationally, it makes sense to me. It appeals to my unredeemed, human sense of fairness.
Karma can be seen as action and reaction. It suggests:
- If we show goodness, we will reap goodness.
- What goes around, comes around.
- You reap what you sow.
- For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Karma is seen as the universal principle of cause and effect. In its theory, our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people, or face the consequences of our actions.
Yet I discover many church-going Christians who have an attitude that resounds more of karma than favour.
Recently, I was preaching overseas. There was a retired pastor in the community who I’d met on previous visits. He had some serious health issues that were going to leave him incapacitated. Understandably, he was struggling. He turned and said to me, “After I saw the doctor last time, I couldn’t work out why this was happening to me. ‘Perhaps God is punishing me,’ I thought.”
While karma is easier to understand, we struggle to understand favour.
Favour, without both qualifications and expectations, chooses people outside of their goodness and refined behaviour. Favour embraces those who don’t have all the correct criteria.
At a best guess, Mary was somewhere between the age of age of 13 and 16 when the angel met her with, “Greetings, favoured one.” She wouldn’t have had an apprenticeship, finished year 12, gone to university, or gained a degree. She wouldn’t have been confirmed, gone to bible college, or trained at a seminary. As a girl, she wouldn’t have had a bar mitzvah, couldn’t worship where the men did, and wasn’t allowed to ask the same questions.
Mary had done nothing. Yet she was chosen.
Mary had ‘achieved’ nothing. Yet she was favoured.
Mary had little to qualify her as the one who would become the God-bearer.
Karma defines you, by what you do or don’t do.
On your good days, you may think this is a wonderful philosophy of life.
On your worst days, it is life-sapping.
Favour redefines you, by who he, the giver of favour is!
The choice of Mary shows us favour is not selective, but inclusive. How reassuring. How comforting. Karma has me continuously assessing my performance and wondering if I’m measuring up. Legalism has me constantly anxious that I’ve ticked all the right boxes. Comparisons have me nervously evaluating my progress in relation to others.
Favour, however, is completely non-prescriptive. It’s there on your best days, and thank God, on your worst days, in your worst moments.
Believe it and receive it. You are defined by Father’s favour.