What??? You might be asking yourself. How? Why? Prey tell, explain.
Thousands of years ago the word that is translated as “atonement” came into existence in the Hebrew language: kippur- to cover (most literally) or to acquit, to forgive, an act that affects forgiveness. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.
Ancient Israelites, up until the destruction of the Temple, practiced animal sacrifice in order to cover their sins. Blood literally covered the altar. This action made a person able to come before the Almighty now that sin had been covered and removed through the sacrificial act.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for atonement, removing the obstacle of our sin that separates us from God. However, the Hebrew kippur (to cover) seems to leave something very significant out, the purpose of forgiveness: reconciliation.
Somewhere around the early 16th century an English word emerged as a translation from the Latin word adunamentum meaning unity. ad(at-indicating a point or place or person)-una(one)-mentum(ment-an action): At-one-ment- Atonement. Where action results in oneness.
At the person of Jesus as a result of the action of the cross you and I are made one with God and with each other: At-one-ment.
Atonement is the greatest contribution of the English language. It changed a cover up to a place of oneness. The work of Christ is the bringing together forever humanity within itself and with God.
God did it for us in Christ’s action but then Christ calls us to do it for each other through our actions. Christ forgave the very people who crucified him from the cross. He didn’t yell down, “You people owe me an apology!” Instead he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Atonement is for us to offer to others not for us to demand from others. We are called to reach out to others to create at-one-ment in the name and person of Christ. Together we can be one.
What’s greater than that?