Discernment is important. Slowing down and…thinking, asking questions…is vital for our spiritual health. Two things that initially seem similar can actually be very different – even conflicting – when the layers are peeled back.
I have jokingly called some Christians Hindu-Christians because their “Christian” beliefs are so mixed up with Hinduism. I don’t mean to mock, but to point out the need for discernment.
On the surface, certain things about Hinduism and Christianity can seem similar. Hindus believe in karma. Karma seems to have become a popular word in recent times. People use the word to refer to people getting what they deserve or suffering consequences for bad behavior. I observe Christians using the word karma. They may say that they are using the word in a more general sense, and that Christianity also teaches that actions have consequences, as in Galatians 6:7 which says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Well, yes, actions have consequences but that is not karma.
To alter a line from The Princess Bride: “Karma. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Karma, samsara, reincarnation – these 3 things are vitally connected to each other. They go together. You can’t have one without the other. Karma is the idea that our intents and actions in life effect our future life for good or for bad. Karma dictates samsara – an ongoing cycle of death and rebirth into new life (reincarnation). How good or bad your new lives are when you are re-born is based upon karma; you are getting what you deserve from past life. This goes on and on. The goal is to eventually break free from this cyclic nightmare and be liberated into nirvana.
This conflicts with so many aspects of Christianity! It is a completely different worldview.
The “law of attraction” popularized in recent times by “The Secret” was influenced partly by Hinduism. Through our thoughts we can control a power in the universe and attract good (or bad) things to our life. What we “send out” comes back to us. I observe Christians talk about sending good thoughts or vibes. Some Christians may defend this as being similar to the idea of sowing and reaping in the Bible. Uh, no. Thought power is not Christian.
Slow down, think. Consequences and karma or “law of attraction” are not the same thing.
I believe in consequences. There is a clear cause and effect in life. Actions have consequences. You reap what you sow as Galatians indicates. We can observe various characters in the Bible suffer the consequences of their behavior such as with Jacob’s deceitful ways or David’s adultery with Bathsheba. If you are a lazy, careless employee, you will likely get fired. If you study hard and follow the class syllabus, you should pass the class. If you sow to your spiritual life, you will have a stronger day-to-day walk of faith.
Thoughts have consequences too. Colossians 3:2 says to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. If we spend our time thinking about worthwhile things, this will help us make wise decisions and positively affect our life. If we mostly think about foolish and banal things, it will negatively affect our life.
Karma and “law of attraction” is something entirely different! Can’t you see it?
Karma is much more than here and now consequence in this life. It is part of a cyclic belief system where your actions affect your next life; which in Hinduism is reincarnation, your re-birth into new lives.
And the “law of attraction” is not just about wise thoughts leading to better life outcomes. Rather, your thoughts are elevated to mystical heights; your thoughts are a force to control reality. The conflicts with Christianity should be obvious, but Christianity aside, do you really think you are so powerful that you can control the universe and bend it to your will?? – Maybe some humility and a dose of reality is in order?
Christians, please stop sending or asking for good thoughts! Thoughts don’t control the universe! God does! God is the sovereign, omnipotent One. Not you. [And even if you think about worthwhile – as opposed to foolish – things, that is no guarantee everything will go your way in life.]
An important distinction:
⇒ Vertical and horizontal consequences are different. Christianity teaches horizontal consequences; we reap what we sow in life. But Christianity has a totally different view of vertical consequences!
If we come to Christ in faith and repentance, we are forgiven of our sin and will have an eternal home with Jesus. Christianity is all about grace and mercy. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and kindness towards us.
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve! We get…forgiveness, peace, hope, abundant life…assurance of eternal life with Christ on the new heaven and earth!
Mercy is not getting what you do deserve! That is, eternal punishment and judgment for our sin. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon himself. We have been saved, rescued from what we do deserve! We will still have horizontal consequences of sin in this life, but God will be with us and we can rest in his mercy and grace. Our future is secure.
This flies in the face of karma. Read these wonderful words from Ephesians 2:1-8.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world….we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
As a book I recently read and reviewed said: “I found the concept of reincarnation to be a cruel joke. It doesn’t even give you the knowledge of past mistakes in order to do better in your next life…How can reincarnation bring comfort when I can be assured of eternal life by a Savior who did all the work for me on the cross?”
And I will end with Bono – yes the rock star.
“I’m pretty sure the world operates by the law of karma…what you put out comes back against you…then enters the story of grace which really is the story of Christ which turned this view of the universe upside down and it’s completely counter-intuitive…it’s very, very hard for humans beings to grasp grace. We can actually grasp atonement, revenge, fairness, all of this we can grasp but we don’t grasp grace very well. I’m much more interested in grace, because I’m really depending on it. If I’m living by karma, I’m in big trouble.“
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Robert & Willene Spicer said:
Excellent post, Laura!
Jeannie Prinsen said:
That’s great, Laura. Love that Bono quote!
Years ago, a seminary professor shared that Bono quote with us in class! Thanks for stopping by the blog Jeannie.
Haha! You’re right! We did come to similar conclusions about karma and Christianity. Thank you for taking the time to honor HInduism too and explain samsara.