Monday, November 9, 2015


Trying to pay for our sins is like trying to chase down a moving train. Even if we run as fast as we can, the train continues to distance itself from us. We never catch it.

This is the problem of self-atonement. Whatever payments we might make are eclipsed by our ever-increasing debt. Paul explained that this was also Israel's problem:

  • “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4)
However, this is not just Israel's problem. It's the problem of everyone who does not know the Savior Jesus, who has made a complete payment for our sins.

Without Jesus, we feel compelled to establish our own atonement system, through which we convince ourselves that we are good people, when we know that we are not.

Some place their hope in achieving notoriety and fame, even infamy, to become that Someone they can live with, the person who need not any longer feel ashamed of themselves.

In The Significant Life, attorney George M. Weaver provides many examples of the absurdity of our quest for self-atonement:

  • Salvador Dali once said, “The thought of not being recognized [is] unbearable”…Lady Gaga sings, “I live for the applause, applause, applause…the way that you cheer and scream for me.” She adds in another song, “yes we live for the Fame, Doin’ it for the Fame, Cuz we wanna live the life of the rich and famous.” (7) 
Our attempts to validate ourselves can even appear more ludicrous:

  • In 2005 Joseph Stone torched a Pittsfield, Massachusetts apartment building… After setting the blaze, Stone rescued several tenants from the fire and was hailed as a hero. Under police questioning, Stone admitted, however, that he set the fire and rescued the tenants because, as summarized at trial by an assistant district attorney, he “wanted to be noticed, he wanted to be heard, he wanted to be known.” (44)
Evidently, this drive for significance is so powerful that it can overrule the moral dictates of conscience. One mass-murderer gunman explained in his suicide note, “I’m going to be f_____ famous” (45).

All of these examples reflect the fact that humanity is aware of an internal need to prove that we are okay, even worthy. To achieve this sense of worthiness, we will even seek to masochistically sacrifice ourselves. And sometimes, this involves the sacrifice of others.

Benedict XVI wrote about this perplexing masochistic phenomenon. He noted how Western culture, en masse, has turned against itself and its Christian heritage:

  • This case illustrates a peculiar western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure…Multiculturalism, which is so constantly and passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own heritage. (Quoted by Jean Bethke Elshtain, First Things, March, 2009, 36)
Why has the West become so masochistic? Make no mistake – masochism rewards its sufferers in many different ways. It convinces them that their sacrifices have made them okay and entitled them to a sense of worth, even moral superiority.

Deep inside, even the leaders of Western Europe know that they are morally deficient. What do they do about this destabilizing inner sense of unworthiness? They desperately attempt to achieve a sense that they are really okay. How? By sacrificially inviting into their countries the very ones who want to destroy them.

Father Douglas al-Bazi, an Iraqi Catholic parish priest from Erbil has denounced the Western refusal to accept reality about Islam:

  • “I’m proud to be an Iraqi, I love my country. But my [Muslim] country is not proud that I’m part of it. What is happening to my people [Christians] is nothing other than genocide. I beg you: do not call it a conflict. It’s genocide… When Islam lives amidst you, the situation might appear acceptable. But when one lives amidst Muslims [as a minority], everything becomes impossible…. Wake up! The cancer is at your door. They will destroy you. We, the Christians of the Middle East are the only group that has seen the face of evil: Islam.”
Why does the West refuse to see this and to sacrifice their people as a result of their willful blindness? Because they have rejected the one true source of atonement and forgiveness, and now must achieve their own atonement!

Jeremiah had warned Israel about this very danger, the danger of trusting in their own manipulations to achieve a sense of okay-ness and worth:

  • This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh [his own achievements] for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” (Jeremiah 17:5-7)

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