From Karma to Grace

Towards the end of yesterday’s sermon—“What the Law Isn’t . . . and Is”—I used the following excerpt from an recent interview with U2 front-man Bono on the difference between what many people call “karam” and grace. It really is a powerful and well-put illustration between how the law-as-principle operates (i.e., legalism) and how the gospel-as-principle operates.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

[Interviewer]: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

[Interviewer]: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. . . . It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

[Interviewer]: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way [you] are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humble. . . . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.