Doctrine of Atonement
October 11 - 17, 2004
this week's Bible Lesson:
Communication as sacrifice
L. Moore, C.S.B.
[from the Responsive Reading]
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to
God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks
to his name.
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such
sacrifices God is well pleased.
a sacrifice? This was news to me. I like to talk. In fact, my
husband might think that I like to talk too much. So how could
communicating ever be considered a sacrifice? In fact, being quiet
sometimes seems the greater challenge to me.
How do communication
and sacrifice fit together? Well, they fit in this week's Bible
Lesson, which is on the topic Doctrine of Atonement. The Bible
Lesson can be found on this website. Anyway, several verses from
Hebrews 13 are included in the introduction. Verses 15 and 16
give a New Testament approach to atonement and sacrifice. From
the King James Version, "By him therefore let us offer the
sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of
our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate
forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
of sacrifice is to atone or make amends for sin. Sin can be any
mistake. The concept of sacrificing for sin is found in practically
every ancient culture. Among the Hebrews, animals or crops were
offered as a way of atoning for mistakes. The concept of sacrificing
things to pay for sin is like a barter system with Deity. It's
like bargaining with God, "I'll give you this if you'll forgive
me for that."
of Hebrews offers a new view of atoning. Instead of the barter
system, he recommends action. In fact, three actions are recommended.
1) Praising God by giving thanks; 2) doing good; and 3) communicating.
Instead of outward sacrifice, this is inward thought resulting
in outward action. What caught my attention was considering praise,
doing good, and communicating as sacrifices. They didn't seem
very demanding to me. Then I thought about the purpose of sacrifice
in atonement. It is to draw people closer to God. Atonement would
have individuals feel united or at-one with God. So the purpose
of praise, doing good, and communicating would be to unite us
God certainly accomplishes this. I always feel closer to God when
I'm thanking Him/Her for blessings received. Where's the sacrifice?
It might seem a sacrifice to acknowledge God's actions in public.
It may feel embarrassing. But when I take a public position and
say outloud in front of others that God is governing the details
and thank Him for tangible answers to prayer, I certainly do feel
closer to God. And I may be helping others acknowledge that God
is doing good in their lives as well.
sacrifice was doing good. I can see immediately how doing good
can atone for sin. So long as a person doesn't vacillate between
doing good and making mistakes. So where's the sacrifice? Maybe
it is a sacrifice to do the right thing instead of ignoring a
situation. Like the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) where
a stranger showed compassion on an injured man by stopping to
care for him. The stranger, a Samaritan took the injured man to
an inn and paid the innkeeper to continue the care, promising
to pay for any additional expense. Perhaps it was a sacrifice
of time, energy and money for the Samaritan. But Jesus' point
in telling the parable was to assure his listeners that doing
good instead of ignoring someone's need is the way to eternal
life. Whatever the sacrifice, doing good brings us closer to God
because God is good. Doing good is actually expressing God and
unites us to the God of action.
sacrifice is communication. I was truly stumped how communicating
could atone for sin, or bring me closer to God. So I looked up
the word in two Greek dictionaries. The original Greek word translated
communicate could also be translated fellowship, intimacy (Thayer's
Abridged), literally participation (Strong's).
means intimately working together with others, it certainly does
involve a sacrifice of personal opinions, desires and ego. Working
together is always more challenging than going it alone.
I felt as if the author of Hebrews was speaking to me. I could
feel closer to God and atone for past mistakes by striving to
maintain a more intimate fellowship with others. Intimate fellowship
doesn't necessarily mean continual agreement. It might mean sticking
together even during disagreements.
me think of church. It might seem easier to work on one's spirituality
by oneself. Why be involved in church when a person can commune
directly with God. Praying for others without having to interact
with them. Praying for the world without interacting with the
world. Reading the Bible and keeping a spiritual regimen without
communicating this spirituality to others in person. All this
can be easier than developing a fellowship with people who might
have differing views. Yet there is the promise that intimate fellowship
with others draws us closer to God and is a sacrifice required
for spiritual growth and progress.
It does seem
easier not to communicate to others when new ideas or innovations
involve change. Change is challenging. Change is a reliable source
of conflict. But it's only through change, both individual and
collective, that we progress. So if it seems a sacrifice to communicate
in order to promote individual and collective spiritual growth,
at least a person can be reassured that they are drawing closer
to God. This has to be a blessing.
these three actions as my individual goal for the month--praising
God in public, doing good, and active fellowship. I hope the sacrifices
involved will have me feel more at-one with God. Perhaps the more
I sacrifice, the closer to God I'll feel. I'll let you know.