This is Part Four in my series Only a Suffering God Can Save
On the Day of Atonement the Israelites had an elaborate ritual where the high priest would lay hands on a goat and pass of the sins of the nation onto that goat. The scapegoat would then be run out of town for the devil to eat. This is the yearly ritual that was proscribed for the forgiveness of sins.
It is easy to see how the crucifixion of the Lord fits with this ritual. The high priest says prior to the arrest of Jesus that it is better that one man die than the entire nation. Christ is arrested and put on trial. He is then beaten and lead out of the city to be executed.
For a moment let us look beyond the ritual, and look at basic human behavior.
Humans are bad at dealing with evil. Very few people will acknowledge that their own actions are evil. We are very good at seeing evil over there, in the other, but it is much harder to see it in yourself or in your group. Historically we dealt with evil by sacrifice. Blood had to be spilt, something had to die. Even today someone has to be accused or blamed. Someone must pay the price. That is why our prisons are so full. We have to have capital punishment because we don’t know how else to deal with evil besides sacrificial systems.
In religion it creates churches of exclusion and hate. To0 many Christians think it is their job to extinguish evil, or failing that, name it and separate themselves from it. The Nazis thought the same thing. That is why the Holocaust was able to happen in a traditionally Christian nation.
If only we had understood the lessons the scriptures were trying to teach us about sacrifice, that it was the ego that had to die. Instead of recognizing the symbolism in the spilling of blood, every sacrifice became a sort of scapegoat. In effect they were saying, “I have sinned and so this lamb must die to pay for my sin.”
Jesus tried showing us another way: forgiveness. In forgiving it is my ego that has to die, my need to be right, superior, and in control. Forgiveness is hard. It is so much easier to point the finger and blame the other. We like to judge others actions, it makes us feel more righteous. This is the very thing that Jesus tried to teach us not to do. Christians have no right to judge others or condemn them. If we are to be Christ-like we must forgive everything.
Don’t believe it? Look at the crucifixion. Even as they were nailing him to the cross, imagine for a moment how much that would hurt, He was praying for them. He was forgiving them for killing Him as they were killing Him!
As long as you deal with evil with some other means than forgiveness, you will never realize the real meaning of sin. You will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there. Instead you should be “gazing” at it, and “mourning” over it. The longer you contemplate evil, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is just your feeling of self-righteousness.
We, as Christians, worship the scapegoat as God. In doing so we should learn to stop scapegoating. We should learn that we could be just as wrong as the people who killed Christ were wrong. Strange that we haven’t learned at least a few lessons from that. The church, state, high priest, king, governor, Rome, and even Jerusalem were all completely wrong when they killed the most innocent man in the world. If all worldly authority can be so wrong, be careful yourself in who you condemn. Looking at history you can see that authority and power are not good guides as to what is good and evil. For most people authority takes away their anxiety, and even responsiblity to form a mature conscience.
Jesus took away the sin of the world by, first of all exposing it for what it is, and it isn’t what we expected. It isn’t in purity codes, but it is our constant blaming, attacking, and killing of the other. We cannot fight evil with evil. This is evil’s primary lie, its great illusion. He exposed the lie, and gave us the answer: complete forgiveness. We now have to face the embarrassing truth that we ourselves are the primary problem. Our primary temptation is to try and change others instead of changing ourselves.
Continued in Atonement or At-One-Ment?