One of the most natural and common concepts in the world is Karma.
The word itself comes from Buddhism to describe "the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual's existence."
Yet it is a concept that is common to Aussies thinking. We use phrases like "what goes around comes around" or "you get what you deserve."
So appealing is the idea of Karma that when we're wronged we often want dish it out!
Karma is also the most natural way for us to think about God. Live a good life and God will reward us. Live a bad life and God will punish us.
I will always remember chatting to a Muslim friend years ago. I asked him how Allah would judge people. His response was that Allah is like lady Justice, the statue which sits outside American court rooms. She stands blindfolded with scales in one hand to weigh your merits and a sword in the other to meet out justice.
Likewise it doesn't matter whether you are the kind in the palace or the beggar in the street. Allah will simply weigh the good and the bad of your life on the scales and reward or punish you accordingly.
Unfortunately some people also think Jesus comes with an equally Karma style message. If I can just follow the rules, perform the right rituals, and live a good enough life, Jesus is bound to reward me.
Yet nothing could be further from what the Bible teaches. In a letter written to the Roman Church we read that "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This is a great summary of Christian teaching and it blows the idea of Karma out of the water.
First of all, it confronts, even offends us, by saying that we are worse than Karma allows us to believe.
Sin is something that all of us do. We all fall short of God's standard. And if we were to get what we deserve, we would be punished.
None of us live a life which is good enough to deserve any reward from God. That's not to say that most of us are not decent people or upstanding citizens.
We are capable of generosity, love, self-sacrifice and many other noble traits. What it is saying is that to God, near enough is not good enough.
That God is utterly perfect and made us to be utterly perfect. If Karma were true all of us would deserve judgement.
But the second point gives us great hope. For what God gives is the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Jesus earns that at the cross.
Jesus willingly gave his life as a sacrifice for our sin.
If the message of Karma is that you get what you deserve, then the message of Jesus is that Jesus got the punishment you deserve so that you can get the reward he deserves.
This is what Christians mean when they talk about grace.
Grace is an undeserved gift. And grace has far more hope than Karma.
When we are seriously ill, when the money is tight, when we find ourselves in depression, when we confront the kinds of national tragedy which drought, fire and virus have all represented in recent times, Karma says that you must deserve it.
And if you deserve it then can you be sure that God is still with you?
Maybe he really has abandoned you?
Yet Grace says that whatever you are suffering, if you are trusting Jesus then whatever the reason is for our trials, it can't be that God has given up on us.
Because through Jesus we have the unshakeable gift of eternal life.
So think honestly about your life. Do you want karma? Or do you want grace?