Karma versus Grace

Cover of "Bono: In Conversation with Mich...


Noun: action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation. The cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person’s deeds in the previous incarnation. Synonyms: fate, predetermination, kismet.[1]


Noun: elegance, beauty, favor, goodwill. A manifestation of favor, especially by a superior. Synonyms: forgiveness, mercy, clemency, pardon: He was saved by an act of grace from the governor.[2]

In a 2005 interview with journalist Michka Assayas, U2 front man Bono spoke eloquently about Karma versus Grace. He said:

At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, 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 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 big trouble if Karma was going to finally 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.[3]

Bono’s statements are a re-phrasing of Colossians 2:13-14: “(Jesus) forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” While there are certainly expected consequences for our decisions, we can rejoice with Bono that, because of Jesus Christ, Grace ultimately trumps Karma.

[2] Ibid.

[3] (Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, Riverhead Books, New York, NY: 2005).  

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