"This is what you get."--Radiohead
Have you ever gleefuly said (in a subtle, inaudible voice, almost at an unconscious level, only evidenced by a devious expression on your face, which you quickly noticed and masked over with a look of empathy), "You're getting exactly what you deserve!"?
I have. It feels pretty good in a wicked sort of way. Justice!
I don't actually want harm to fall on anyone, well, on principle. But when "justice" comes to someone that I thought deserved it, especially if I was the brunt of their injustice, I can't help but feel a little satisfied.
Of course, that leaves an open invitation for judgment to come onto me, a realization that brings an equal and opposite emotion, paranoia! Paranoia whispers, "You're gonna get what you deserve too, you know! It all comes back around in the end. That's Karma for you."
Justice is a cup served...to anyone but me please!
Let's do a little Karma experiment. Let's imagine that all the unjust things you've ever done were put into a cup. Drinking that cup would be like accepting all the consequences of all the things you've ever done. What kind of horror would it be for you to receive the justice you deserve? I get a little paranoid just thinking about it!
Imagine everyone you've ever hurt looking at you and laughing and saying, "Ah, you are finally getting what you deserve! This is what you get for the way you treated me, for the way you cheated on me, for the things you said behind my back, for the lies you told me, for every time you hit me, for how you abandoned me, for how you made fun of me, for all that you took from me! Drink up!"
It's an awful picture.
This is what the prophet Ezekiel is showing God to be doing to Israel. Basically, "You asked for it so I am no longer withholding the consequences of your actions. Drink up!"
Thus says the Lord God:
“You shall drink your sister’s cup
that is deep and large;
you shall be laughed at and held in derision,
for it contains much;
you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.
A cup of horror and desolation,
the cup of your sister Samaria;
you shall drink it and drain it out,
and gnaw its shards,
and tear your breasts;
for I have spoken, declares the Lord God.--Ezekiel 23:32–34
(Gnaw it's shards? Dang!)
Drinking the cup of wrath, taking the full brunt of all the evil we have ever committed. It should terrify us.
We need to realize is that God doesn't have the, "That's what you get!" attitude toward us. The breadth of the Old Testament reveals a God who takes no pleasure in seeing his children "get what's coming to 'em." In fact, one of the glorious paradoxes of Christianity is the reality that God's love doesn't let us get the fullness of what's coming to us--he takes it upon himself.
A few hours before his crucifixion, Jesus, the Son of God was wrestling with God in the Garden of Gethsemane and he said, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done..."
Then when Jesus was hanging on the cross and cried out, "I thirst" and they gave him a sponge full of vinegar to quench his thirst. We are meant to understand that his experience was that bitter cup of wrath, where all of the consequences of evil and injustice find their ending here on the cross.
God doesn't play the Karma game.
Bono once said, "Along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you 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 deep trouble if Karma was finally going to be my judge…it doesn't excuse my mistakes but I'm holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity."
I confess that my sense of justice is not normally based on your grace. Change my attitude. I didn't "get what I deserve" so help me not to dish out what I think others deserve. Give me patience. Give me grace upon grace and may I offer it up as a cool cup of water on a hot day. Amen.