Good news for you, too.

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014

by Rev. Jeff Harris, Pastor FBC Tryon

If Christianity is supposed to be such good news, then why does it so often sound like bad news?
Christianity is often described as a laundry of list of moralistic do’s and don’ts (usually with a heavy emphasis on the don’ts).  Alongside this list of prescribed behaviors, there is an implicit (sometimes it is explicit) incentive for good behavior (ie. blessings and rewards) or the threat of punishment for bad behavior (perhaps of the eternal kind).  In other words, Christianity is often presented as Karma. If you do good things, then God will shower you with good things. If you do bad things, then God will punish you with bad things.
While it is true that some of this theology can be found in the Bible (it is called Deuteronomistic theology in academic circles), it is not the dominant narrative.  And if it were, let’s be honest, that would be pretty bad news.
One of my favorite theologians, Bono (who also happens to be an Irish Rock Star), explains:
“You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one.
It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘as you reap, so you will sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. . . I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge.  It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace.”
Like, Bono, I know myself well enough to know that Karma would be bad news indeed, because in a world full of poverty, greed, violence, and prejudice, not a one of us is innocent.  So, I’m also holding out for Grace.
Grace is the gift of God realized.  And when you realize that gift, it changes you.  Grace allows you to see beyond your own narcissism; it strengthens you to love not only your neighbor, but also your enemy.  Grace humbles you and frees you.  Grace is our only hope.
And Grace is at the heart of Christianity.  That’s not only good news for Bono of U2, it is good news for you, too (pun intended).  And for me.