Far Better Than Karma

The Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. – Genesis 4:9-10

Two Tiny Flowers | Kleb Woods | February 2021

Several years ago, I did a wedding for a fellow pastor. I didn’t know the couple but I was willing to help him out since he was not able to do it. Most often couples will provide an honorarium to the officiant for a wedding. This couple either did not think to do so, or they gave it to the church or other pastor. Whatever the case, I did not receive an honorarium. I’m not really upset about this. I bring it up, however, to illustrate an important point. When I am wronged (even in such a minor matter) I wish for recompense. Let’s just not talk about all the times I may have shortchanged someone else – unintentionally of course!

I most often think of Karma in the informal sense. I don’t really believe in it, even the idea, necessarily, that “What goes around comes around.” And I certainly don’t subscribe to the Hindu belief that the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence decides one’s fate in future existences. But sometimes I do long for the bread I’ve cast on the water to return to me; that the good I do to others will be repaid me.

But what about vengeance? On the one hand, I’m not inclined toward vengeance. I figure God will even things out in the end. And if someone has taken undue advantage of me he will bear the consequences – either naturally, or by God’s hand. In fact God promises as much: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay,” says the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17-19).

In the case of Cain’s sin, vengeance will come – although it will be always within the limits that God imposes. God even warns against anyone who would kill Cain, promising a seven-fold vengeance upon the one who would take that action. As Luther is famously to have said, “The devil is always God’s devil.” So too is every form of evil. It’s nearly impossible to fathom how God could allow a sin such as murder to be perpetrated by one human upon another, but Jesus is clear, God’s eye is on the sparrow. Surely he has every step of Satan in view. Furthermore, what appears to us as mere chance is not chance at all. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). And while we may think that men and women of power control the world’s events, we must recall: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Psalm 21:1).

As God directs the course of human life, we can seek his providential care and protection. And if the scales are not balanced this side of eternity – in our opinion – they will one day be seen to have been completely unbalanced in our favor by the blood of Jesus. He is “the mediator of a new covenant,” and the one who’s “sprinkled blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). For Jesus’ blood speaks grace, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. And any one of those is far better than karma could ever be.

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The Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:8-16

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