Friday, January 8, 2021

 How to Escape Bad Karma

Karma is a rather strange word. It entered the English language in the early 1800s but wasn't popularized until the 1960s and 1970s. What does karma mean, exactly?

Nowadays the term is used to mean the demands of justice. When word karma was borrowed from Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions, however, it originally signaled the idea that a person's actions in this life determine the conditions in his or her subsequent incarnation. And who or what requires and arranges the effects of karma? Why, the Universe, of course. With such a concept as karma, one could believe in the inescapable demands of justice without necessarily believing in any particular god.

The idea that the universe demands eventual justice for all intelligent beings just makes sense. That justice should always be met, sooner or later and in very situation just seems to be pure logic. Any legitimate ruler over others—including any "god"—would need to recognize and uphold the concept of universal justice for all, don't you think?

And yet...and yet...justice can seem so unacceptably harsh sometimes—most notably when we—or someone we love—must face a deserved punishment for infractions of other 'universal' or 'natural' laws. 

Wouldn't it be a desirable thing if the demands of justice (that is, karma) could be escaped under certain circumstances? But how? And under what circumstances?

Ah! Now we can see how this most crucial dilemma in all the Universe is born: How might a means of escaping the demands of justice (or karma) be devised without destroying the foundational concept of justice? Certainly anyone who could author such a plan, and found a society based on such a plan, might earn the trust of vast numbers of intelligent beings. Such a plan could easily become very popular. And so would the 'god' who authored it, don't you think?

How would it work? What would hold it together? What could make it endure throughout eternities? If it was only a temporary system, that wouldn't seem quite fair—or just, would it? No, it has to endure forever. What principle would it be based on? Hmmm.

The word grace comes to mind. Or, in other words, redeeming love. Love that's infinitely deep. Love that endures forever.

In a masterful talk D. Todd Christofferson described the sacrifices Ann Sullivan had to make to win the confidence of the violently disturbed blind-and-deaf child, Helen Keller. Ann was screamed at, punched, pinched, clawed, and kicked. Ann even had one of her teeth knocked out by the poor, wretched, little tyrant. Ann's self-sacrificing patience, love, and persistence—her grace—finally worked a miracle, however. Ann's love redeemed Helen. And Helen didn't just learn to behave herself. She actually went on to be a highly successful writer and speaker—even though she remained deaf and blind all her days. Quite a miracle.

In her role as teacher, counselor, mentor, and to a degree even savior of Helen Keller, Ann Sullivan exemplified our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Chirst. Elder Christofferson explained that the intent of Christ's suffering is to...

"...bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance." ~Alma 34:15

This is a thought worthy of our deepest contemplation. Christ, the literal son of the God of our Galaxy, the infinitely adored Son, the Prince of Heaven, the purest, most capable, most lovely of all, was willing to condescend to be born into a physical body in the lowliest of circumstance, live a spartan life dedicated to serving his fellow beings according to his Father's will and always putting his own needs last, proved his love and dedication every day of his existence, and finally by undergoing the most hideous suffering any of God's creatures ever endured as the weight of all human sins fell upon him in Gethsemane and on the cross. He did this all for the sake of providing the rest of us a means to escape the demands of justice. Toward the end his suffering grew so severe that he wanted to give up, but his love for his Father and for us caused him to persevere and complete the task. Thank God.

How does all this work? Surely Christ's life, and especially the suffering He endured during the last few days of his mortal life, should evoke the bowels of mercy in each soul who is willing to pay attention, who is willing to look and see. If One so lovely and so adored is willing to suffer so much for redemption from the demands of justice for those he loves and who love him, then are we not willing to set aside own desire to judge and allow Him the right say who may or may not be forgiven for their past misdeeds?

And thus the bowels of mercy overpower justice. ~Alma 34:15

Because Christ, being an infinite being (because he was half-immortal, after all) was able to suffer (because he was half-mortal, after all) and to suffer infinitely as he truly did, his Atonement is therefore infinite. 

What is then required for you and me to escape the demands of justice? We must look to Christ, accept him and his Atonement, his grace, his sacrifices, and his redeeming love. We do this by giving up our wrongful behavior, by following him, and by keeping his commands the best we can the rest of our lives.

And that's how Christ offers an escape from the demands of justice—or in other words, from all our bad karma.

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Orem, Utah—8 January 2021—©2021 Daniel Kemper Lubben


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