This week the Jewish people are remembering Yom Kippur, which is also known as the Day of Atonement. I find it interesting that while we Christians may talk about it from the book of Leviticus, it’s not a day we set aside as holy. We look at Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, and the Ascension, but not Yom Kippur. If it is the holiest day for the Jewish people, and obviously from a part of the Bible that we as Christians read, why isn’t it something we Christians really talk about?
Let’s start with what atonement means. Atonement is defined as making amends, reconciling, or reparation for wrong doing. Atonement is what people do when they have to pay a fine for a traffic ticket or do community service, and we also say ‘I’ll make it up to you’ on a regular basis. The issue or difference comes in because atonement isn’t always a step we take or a step we know we take in the forgiveness process, but I think it’s one we could take and recognize more often. Especially when it comes to relationships, it’s may be the difference between being able to work things out and repair them versus throwing them out and not trying to or being able to fix things.
So where does atonement fit in to our lives as Christians? Galatians 1:4 (ESV) says “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” We know that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins, to make our slate clean, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize when we sin, shouldn’t ask for forgiveness for our sins, shouldn’t atone for our sins, shouldn’t learn from our sins and do/say differently if and when there is a next time.
There’s more shame in pretending you’re perfect and hiding your sins than admitting you have sinned and working through the aftermath. Admitting you have sinned means you’ve got the opportunity to be forgiven and be able to be healed of that sin and make changes going forward, which is way better than trying to live under an ever-increasing mountain of sin. Not every sin needs fixing, some need to be forgiven and forgotten. But in the situation where it’s appropriate to atone and there’s a chance to make things right, grab that opportunity to get your life headed back in the right direction and showing that you’re as good as your word when you apologized.