Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’ – Matthew 26:52
The above quote from Jesus might seem to confirm what adherents to a different religious tradition call karma. As I understand it, karma implies that if you engage in a certain behavior, then that same behavior will come back upon you, or maybe stated more simply: “what goes around, comes around.” Jesus puts it in a more complete way in Luke 6:37-38: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
Such a “measure,” some say, was recently given back. According to a report this week in the Charleston, SC City Paper: “The day before the June 24 Republican primary runoff, S.C. superintendent of education candidate Sally Atwater is facing a lawsuit that claims she assaulted a special needs student in her elementary school classroom. The lawsuit was filed in a Colleton County court on June 19, nine days after Atwater took a close second in the Republican primary and five days before she faces Molly Spearman in a runoff. In a written statement, Atwater campaign spokesman Luke Byars called the lawsuit ‘baseless and frivolous’ and ‘one of the lowest political hit jobs I have witnessed in 25 years of South Carolina politics’.”
You may know that Ms. Atwater is the widow of the late Lee Atwater, who as a political operative engaged in even meaner “political hit jobs.” To his eternal credit, as he was dying of cancer, he lamented his vicious behavior and sought forgiveness. Now, his widow seems to have been on the receiving end of an “Atwater-type” political attack. If so, it appears to have worked as Ms. Atwater did lose the election. So now some people are exercising their usual, gleeful schadenfreude claiming Ms. Atwater got “karmic payback” for her late husband’s onerous behavior. Other people are saying: “when you live by the sword of political hit jobs, then you’ll die by them as well.” You see, they’re even quoting Jesus to back up their version of wisdom to live by.
But that “wisdom” assumes Jesus was endorsing such outcomes as good things. He wasn’t. He was merely observing how the world works when we don’t live by the Godly virtues of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus says that when we judge and condemn others, when we don’t forgive, we set lose a pattern of behavior that’ll always come back upon us. But, Jesus says, when we put away our sword of condemnation, when we don’t place ourselves on His judgment seat, when we incarnate forgiveness in our lives, then we set loose a different spiritual pattern in the world, a pattern that abounds in grace and infects with mercy, which we’ll receive back in full measure beginning now and forever. That’s the Gospel truth and not mere karma.
The eCrozier will be on holiday for six weeks or so in the hot, humid jungles of Mozambique. The eCrozier will resume sometime in August.