Karma & God!

Famed NBA basketball player LeBron James tweeted on Twitter last week, “Crazy. Karma is a b****. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”  James was responding to the beat down the Los Angeles Lakers handed his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the night before.

First, a little background, just in case you don’t follow the drama of NBA basketball.  LeBron is a freak-of-nature, phenomenally good player.  He was so good in high school that he skipped college ball, jumping straight to the NBA, where he soon dominated the grown men’s game.  This “man among boys” in high school no more than turned around and he was a “boy among men,” schooling them nonetheless on a nightly basis.

After several frustrating seasons in Cleveland, however, LeBron set his sights on a better team in a more exciting city.  Talking behind the scenes with two other NBA stars – Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – the threesome agreed to arrange trades which would land them on the same team: the Miami Heat.

Calling a primetime, nationwide press conference – which ESPN hyped as if it was the Super Bowl – LeBron James uttered a statement that now lives in sports infamy: “This fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”

James, Wade, and Bosh are "Heating" it up this year!

In a single moment, James fell from grace in the basketball universe.  The fall resulted from a collection of immature, self-centered missteps by the star, culminating with his ill-chosen, cocky phrase, “take my talents.” As fans discovered that James hadn’t pre-alerted his Cavalier teammates, coach, and owner of his decision; as it dawned on people that his festive, over-produced, nationwide press conference was a bit over-the-top, they turned on him in droves, as only crazed fan-atics can do.

Fast forward to the present.  Things are going great for the famous threesome and their Miami Heat team.  Stumbling a bit at first, the stars hit their stride and have not let up.  Meanwhile, the spurned Cleveland Cavaliers are the worst team in the NBA, with an abysmal 8-30 record…which brings me to the Cavs’ embarrassing beat down at the hands of the Lakers last week (they lost by 55 points!).

Lakers hand the Cavs their worst defeat in team history

Hearing of their loss, LeBron James tweeted the aforementioned message: “Crazy. Karma is a b****. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”

And this brings me to why I am writing about basketball in an article I titled Karma & God: LeBron’s tweet highlights an error we find in everyday culture – religious pluralism, which is the ignorant blending of different religious teachings.  You cannot in the same sentence make reference to karma and God’s all-seeing eye, as if they both peacefully coexist.

Karma suggests an uncertainty to life and existence, a future which is wide open to manipulation by present behavior.  Karma places preeminence upon human control of the universe.  Pushed to its final limit, karma merely mimics mankind’s most ancient pagan religion: self worship.  Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, rebelled against God’s rule, setting themselves up as rulers of their own existence.  Karma picks up here by teaching that men and women can control their own destiny.

Over against the concept of karma, you find God.  And God, by definition, is in total control of the universe.  As R.C. Sproul says, if even one atom dances beyond God’s control, He ceases to be God.

The Bible portrays God as the sovereign ruler of His universe.  He created everything from nothing and governs, not from a detached, sleepy distance, but actively.  We read of the Lord’s minute control over life in Proverbs 16:33 – “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Even that which we refer to as chance, luck, or fate bow to God’s control, which says, in essence, that they aren’t real.  Nothing but God governs the future.

LeBron James invoked both God and karma in the same breath, when only one can logically exist.  Karma offers no ultimate meaning to life.  Who’s to say that my definition of good karma matches yours?  If not, wouldn’t our efforts to obtain good karma cancel each other out?  Karma therefore spirals into futile meaninglessness, which culminates in hopelessness and despair.

The God of the Bible, by contrast, lovingly governs the universe He created.  He extends great mercy and patience even to the men and women who reject Him and deny His existence.  For those who place their full belief in Him, He extends the gracious gift of eternal life, in spite of their sin and rebellion.  He killed His own Son Jesus as their substitute, and reckons Christ’s perfect record of righteousness to their moral bankrupt account.

These are incomprehensible actions of a God who is in total control but who is, at the same time, unimaginably kind and merciful.  No, karma and God cannot peacefully coexist.  God’s Son Jesus is the only way.  Christ’s claim of exclusivity says it all: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

LeBron’s pluralistic tweet reveals the religious and moral confusion which now blinds our great country.  Paul the apostle described the futile thinking which characterizes our day.  Writing in Romans 1, he said of mankind, “They became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22-23).  We are increasingly a land of fools who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

What is our fate should we persist in unbelief?  Paul spoke of the frightening conclusion to people’s long term rebellion: “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:11-12).  Frightening!  When we persist for too many seasons in futile thinking, God finally blinds us to the truth, prompting us to run even faster toward the pleasures of unrighteousness.

As much as I enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball, his tweet on Twitter exposes the futile thinking that now permeates American culture.  We mix metaphors as we combine religions, all the while drifting further away from truth.  Can it be that we are already seeing God send His strong delusion?  Do not people across our nation already show signs of believing what is false?

If you are a Christian, your affirmative answer to the questions above serves as your charge, your marching orders.  As the days grow darker, as worldly wise people reveal their true ignorance, the church holds the only answer that has ever saved: Jesus Christ.  If we are in the final season of human history, perhaps even watching the clock tick down on the fourth quarter, the church’s job is to boldly preach Christ.

Now is not the time to impress the world.  This is not the hour to attract the world.  Today is not the day to mimic the world.  Though the church is falling for these cheap substitutes, they reveal only our lack of concern.  The true church, by definition, knows God’s truth and is not surprised by the darkening days and approaching end.  We alone recognize today’s futility, so we alone should boldly show Christ’s love through mercy ministry and lovingly warn people of hell.

Join me, if you will, in taking Christ out of our churches, carrying Him into the world.  Take advantage of tweets such as LeBron’s to engage people in conversation.  Listen respectfully, but don’t be bashful about sharing the gospel.  Plant the seed of faith and then marvel at what the Holy Spirit might do!