Australia may be a spiritual nation, but it's not religion that has captured its attention but the spiritual belief of functional karma. I don't mean Karma in the sense of the Buddhist and Hindu construct of causality. I mean the western knockoff version - cheap, functional Karma.
Functional Karma shows itself in our language: you get what you deserve, what goes around comes around or as one ad put it recently, 'you deserve to be rewarded for your hard work'. Essentially, life is all about what you do - work hard, be a good person and that means that life will treat you well.
On the surface level, this is one of the greatest ideas that has worked itself into cultural consciousness. I mean, when it comes down to it, the idea that good behaviour leads to a good life, that evil will always find its come-uppance is genius in its simplicity and so many of us have subscribed.
It's only the deeper inspection that raises real questions. Functional Karma has a deep-seated flaw - it requires nothing less than perfection for us to confidently reap its rewards. You can work hard, be a 'good' person and have a positive impact - but how hard do you have to work for life to work in your favour, how good do you have to be?
Functional karma, at the end of the day will leave anyone trying to end on the positive side of the ledger exhausted. Look around, doesn't that describe us as a people? The average person today has the same level of anxiety as a mental patient in the 1960's. We are exhausted.
So we make short-cuts and sidesteps. We make 'good' and 'bad' subjective, so that anyone can be either as long as they believe it to be true. It doesn't really matter whether you are a good person, as long as you believe it right?
That's the problem though. I'm not a good person, not even a little bit. On the surface I look one - travelled the world, married young and likeable to many - but when it comes down to it, I am not 'good'.
I know who I am
If I have to rely on my own excellence, my own goodness than by the very laws of functional Karma, I am done. I will spend my entire life trying to live up to expectations that I will not meet and I will leave myself exhausted - bitter, twisted and alone. If good things happen to good people, good things will not happen to me because I am not good.
Grace is my only hope
Jesus is a divisive figure - at my own church, we have been delving into the question of whether he is God or man. The fact of the matter is, unless Jesus is God - unless God intervened in this world, then this world is stuffed.
Unless God sends his Son into this broken, messed up world to set it free then this world will be shackled to functional Karma - a never-ending merry-go-round of work harder, do more, be better that leaves us well short of where we need to be.
Jesus was sent into the world to set people free - to break the chains of everyone enslaved and that is good news. Jesus simply says: "whoever believes in my name will be saved". Not our efforts, not our excellence, not our attempts to be good - because we're not. It's all up to him.
If you are exhausted from functional Karma, from the endless effort of being good then this is the best news you will ever receive. Grace is the good news you have been looking for.
When it comes down to it, I am holding out for Grace because I know exactly who I am.
I'm holding out for Grace because I have no other choice.
I'm holding out for Grace because I am not 'good'.
Nor will I ever be.
James Young moved to the west of Melbourne to follow God's call on his life to tell young people about the greatest message they could ever hear – the gospel. On his days off, he seeks pain on a road bike, blissful beats by listening to Beautiful Eulogy and Trip Lee and relaxing with his beautiful wife Sarah. You can see more of his writing @radicalchange2010.com and follow him at @ragingzephyr on twitter.
James Young's previous articles may be viewed www.pressserviceinternational.org/james-young.html