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Articles | Discipleship

When the great contemporary theologian Bono decided to take on grace, one of the great pillars of Christian belief, here’s a portion of the lyric he wrote:

Grace

She takes the blame

She covers the shame

Removes the stain

It could be her name

Grace

It’s a name for a girl

It’s also a thought that

Changed the world

And when she walks on the street

You can hear the strings

Grace finds goodness

In everything

She travels outside

Of karma, karma

She travels outside

Of karma

I love the way Bono sums up the impact of grace in our lives—“Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.” In his lyric, Bono personifies the upending and even scandalous core of our “unmerited favor”:

“She travels outside of Karma.”

Karma is an eastern religious concept—embraced by both Hinduism and Buddhism—that means, essentially, you get what you deserve. It’s the same message we’ve told our kids at Christmas—“If you’re good, you’ll get. If you’re not, you won’t.” Even if we don’t openly embrace eastern religious thought in our lives, we most certainly embrace Karma as Western Christians. The overwhelming majority of us still believe that the way you get to heaven is to be a good person—you get what you deserve. Many more of us who know “the right answer”—that faith in Christ, and therefore redemption in Christ, is the only path to heaven—nevertheless functionally live as if getting to heaven depends on our own goodness.

Grace is God’s functional momentum, expressed by His dogged commitment to make “beauty out of ugly.” And, under that definition, it’s most like the art of Tae Kwon Do. Central to the practice of Tae Kwon Do is “using the attacker’s force of momentum against him or her.” That’s exactly opposite of Karma or the laws of physics, where “every action is met by an opposite one.” Instead, in Tae Kwon Do, you train to recognize your enemy’s energy and momentum, then use it against him. That’s why a smaller person can defeat a larger person—by using the larger person’s momentum to defeat him.

In the same way, Jesus takes what Satan meant for evil and turns it to good—He forces the momentum of the Evil One’s knife thrust back toward him. In Romans 8:28, 31-32 Paul sketches God’s beauty-out-of-ugly personality: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose….What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Here’s how to translate what Paul is saying into Tae Kwon Do language: “If God is always using your enemy’s momentum against him, how can your enemy possibly win? If He’s already defeated Satan’s murderous plans by turning the cross’ momentum against him, how can you think He won’t do the same in your life?”

Rick Lawrence has been editor of GROUP Magazine for 25 years. His most recent books are 99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living (Group/SYM) and Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus (Cook)

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