I enjoy the music of the rock group U2. The group’s flamboyant lead singer is a guy named Bono, who doesn’t hide the fact that he is a Christian. Some years ago, Bono was interviewed by a secular writer, Michka Assayas. When Mr. Assayas mocked religious faith, Bono didn’t get angry or defensive. Instead he began to explain the Good News: “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people. But the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.”
When asked to explain that statement, Bono said, “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…. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that…. 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 [sinful] stuff.
“I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge,” Bono continued. “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…. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.”
To his credit, Mr Assayas included Bono’s explanation of the basic Christian message in his publication. Even more interesting was his reaction to Bono’s words: “The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that…. That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view.”
God’s grace is so wonderful that it is indeed close to lunacy. Except that it is true.
The interviewer had never even heard of the concept of grace, or of the Gospel message about the forgiveness of sin through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The idea that we can be freely forgiven, no matter how terrible our sins, seems to be lunacy when people first hear about it. It doesn’t fit in with our ingrained belief about karmic justice: if you do the crime you gotta do the time, or what goes around comes around.
For many people, like Mr. Assayas, who have never heard the Gospel message, the answer to the problem of karmic justice oftentimes simply is to deny that sin is real. Denying that sin exists may sidestep the problem of karmic justice, and it may give people some peace and comfort—at least until the swirl of societal chaos wreaks havoc on their lives. But the plain reality, for those willing to open their eyes and look around, is that sin is all too real.
Although the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), the solution to the problem is not to pretend that sin doesn’t exist. The solution is found at the foot of the Cross. The solution, as Bono mentioned, is Grace. God’s love interrupts the consequences of our actions.
If more people who believe in Christ—not just famous rock stars, but also everyday goobers like us—spoke out about the wonderful Grace of God, then maybe those around us, our fellow unfamous goober friends and relatives, would hear for the first time how much God truly loves them. So much so, He does something that borders on lunacy: He forgives our sins even though we don’t deserve it. All we have to do is sincerely repent and ask for forgiveness. It is truly the “Good News.”