Grace on Display
By Ed Delph
March 13, 2023
I hear many people talking today about karma. Karma is when justice catches up to us and does to us that which we have done to others, either positively or negatively. Most times, people use this concept in a negative sense. "They reaped what they sowed." "Karma got them." To karma believers, life is cause and effect; there are no ifs, ands, or buts. Abraham Maslow once said, "It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
The one-size-fits-all karma worldview of life is appropriate in some cases, but not all. Sometimes people and institutions do reap what they sow. The principle of sowing and reaping is a biblical truth. But not everything is a nail unless you are a hammer.
This worldview was typical in Biblical times too. Here’s a Biblical account of the hammer and the nail view in the times of Jesus.
"And as Jesus passed, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.' When Jesus said this, He spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, applied the clay to the blind man's eyes, and said to him, 'Go wash in the pool of Siloam.' And so, he went away and washed and came back seeing." John 9:1-3, 6-7
After the man was healed, the confused nail and hammer crowd couldn't believe what had happened. They had seen the blind man before. They neatly categorized him as a sinner, an outcast with suspicious parents, and a person to ignore. There was quite a discussion on this. The nail and hammer crowd, desperate to protect their karma worldview, even summoned the blind man's parents and interrogated them. The healed man upset their cause-and-effect worldview. The formerly blind man's sight blindsided them.
Their default assumption was that suffering is a direct result of sin, and those who suffer are punished for their past sins or even their parent's sins. Therefore, the blind man was suffering because he or his parents had done something wrong in God’s eyes.
But Jesus opened the finger-pointers' and our eyes to a new possibility. Jesus is good at that. Jesus said that God designed this man's disability to display God’s grace to all the people in the city. It wasn’t karma, what the blind man had done, or even what the parents had done. Let me repeat; it was God’s ‘grace on display’ for everyone in the area to see.
The man’s blindness was designed in heaven to show them that God is alive and capable of doing anything He likes. It shows us that God is for us, not against us. It shows us God's goodness, mercy, grace, compassion, and power. It shows us that despite what we may have or have not done, every ‘sinner’ has a future, and every saint has a past. So don't be quick to judge and even quicker to speak. Don't be the finger-pointer. Some people find fault like there is a reward for it. Don’t be a card-carrying member of the classify, compare, commend, karma club.
The Bible says in Peter’s first letter that there are three sorts of suffering: suffering for what one had done wrong (like going to jail when you robbed a bank), suffering for what one has done right (persecution), and just plain old suffering. The blind man’s mess was a message from God; not everything is a nail, and not all suffering is the hammer of karma. Karma is too shallow an explanation to explain why there is suffering.
The explanation of negative karma is that you get what you deserve. The definition of Christianity is Jesus got what you deserve. And the just plain suffering type of suffering could be, as in the case of the blind man, to display God’s grace to the whole world. It was as if God was shouting, “Look, here it is, grace on display.”
Here's another ‘grace on display’ by author Philip Yancey. "Jesus forgave a thief dangling on a cross, knowing full well the thief had converted out of fear. That thief would never study the Bible, never attend a synagogue or church, and never make amends to those he had wronged. So instead, he said, "Jesus, remember me," and Jesus promised, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
It was another shocking reminder that grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us. Grace recognizes consequences but refuses abandonment.
When you run alone, it’s called a race. But when God runs with you, it’s called grace. Got grace?
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com