Reconciliation or Appeasement
Appeasement is a counterfeit of reconciliation.
Appeasement denotes an abuser/victim relationship where the victim is expected to satisfy the selfish demands of the abuser by paying whatever is demanded in order to 'repair' the relationship.
Reconciliation is the restoration of a relationship of mutual respect, honor and love, a relationship where both feel completely safe from any exploitation from the other.
When Jesus said He sanctified Himself, it meant that He made Himself totally safe so that any human being could trust Him to be safe enough to approach God without fear of being exploited, censured, shamed or rejected.
When Jesus said that to become His disciple we must deny ourself, take up our cross and follow Him, He was explaining that the way to achieve restoration of wholeness in relationship is to deny our own urges to exploit and choose rather to become vulnerable, following the example of Jesus in making ourself safe like God is safe, even to the point of laying down our own life rather than taking advantage of anyone else or exploiting them in any way.
This is another useful lens through which to see more clearly how salvation actually heals and restores God's design for creation and relationships. Every sinful attitude is one that engages in or encourages a victim/abuser relationship in place of an equal value type relationship of selfless love and respect in humility. Sin involves defining everyone based on relative value (commerce and hierarchy thinking) and causes us to leverage relationships to gain advantage over others. Sin also involves the use of laws made to be enforced through whatever means required to either entice or intimidate people into compliance to them. Yet this approach relies primarily on manipulation through fear rather than encouraging the selfless service of love, and it erodes the delicate bonds of true love.
Fear, selfishness, exploitation, relative value – these are all fundamental elements of the kingdom of darkness and have no place whatsoever in the kingdom of heaven. To be sanctified means to be cleansed and separated from all of these toxic elements in our thinking and relationships and to be restored and reconciled to the heart of the Father who has demonstrated in Christ that He is completely safe and is worthy of the trust of the most vulnerable of the creatures He has made.
One of the main issues of contention that must be settled before God's designed for governance can be fully restored in the universe is the question of how safe God is with absolute power. So long as any of His children insist that He must resort to violence, intimidation or fear tactics to accomplish His will, some will cling to the lie that God cannot really handle power and still remain consistent with the ways of pure selfless love. This was one of the original arguments of Lucifer that launched his rebellion in heaven. Yet the cross, properly understood and appreciated, is the ultimate example of the saving truth that God is the light of love, and that in Him is never the slightest taint of darkness, exploitation or intimidation at all (1 John 1:5). This is why the true message of the cross is the most potent argument to win our respect, adoration and trust, for properly understood it is designed to reconcile us into trusting His heart as we come to see that God is completely safe. Only when we come to believe with our heart that someone will never, ever exploit their power to take advantage of our weakness can we open our own heart up to make ourselves completely vulnerable so as to enter into true intimacy with them.
Emotional healing can only take place in an environment where we can come to believe that it is safe to be vulnerable without fear of being exploited again. Then as we increasingly feel safe within secure boundaries of love and respect, our heart can begin to dare to trust someone more to find the extent of just how safe they really are. Our heart is designed to crave love, but in an atmosphere of safety where we can be vulnerable without fear of being exploited. This is what intimacy is all about, and intimacy is the ultimate experience our soul was created to enjoy. Intimacy without exploitation brings the ultimate level of satisfaction to our heart and is what salvation is designed to restore in us. But to arrive there we must receive enough evidence to trust that the one we open up to is worthy of our trust and will never exploit us but always has our best interest at heart themselves.
Obviously in this sinful dangerous world it can be very difficult to find people who can be trusted to this degree. In fact, the only truly safe human being who ever walked this planet is the Son of Man/Son of God who came to demonstrate in person that God can be totally trusted to never exploit anyone. This is the very opposite of the lies embraced by our first parents that plunged us all into the mess we find ourselves in today. Jesus came to expose and refute every lie of the enemy that makes us afraid of God and fearful that He will at some time exploit His advantage over us in some way. Because we experience exploitation to some degree from nearly everyone we meet, we have a very hard time believing that God will never use His advantage to harm or exploit us at some point in time.
I want to touch on the issue of law here briefly. The use of law in our world is artificial and is arbitrarily enforced through means of imposed punishments which is contrary to how God's laws operate by natural cause and effect. Yet religion and the earthly societies we live in rely so heavily on artificial laws designed to leverage rewards and punishments to maintain order, that we find it extremely implausible that God's natural laws alone could ever possibly be effective enough to overcome all the power of evil. Yet this is in the very message of the cross, for Jesus refused even for a moment to indulge in any desire for artificial law enforcement to get back at His enemies.
Jesus came to demonstrate that God would rather allow us to exploit Him even to the point of death rather than indulge in a single instant of reacting the way sin causes us to react. Peter points this out in his reflection on the cross years later as in amazement he recounts how Jesus demonstrated the greatest vulnerability the universe has ever witnessed in response to the assault of all-out exploitation launched against Him intended to elicit even a hint of resentment or offense.
In fact this is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example, so you should follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even, when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but left everything to the one who judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 FBV, GW, CEV, NET)
The experience of the cross then, was both a human and demonic assault on God attempting to prove the original assertions of Satan that God harbors dark motives which in turn justifies His creatures harboring similar motives. This means when we indulge in resentment or desires for revenge, it isn't fair for God to rebuke or correct us because we are merely giving expression to what is lurking deep in His heart. This is at the very core of the charges against God by Satan and is one of the pivotal issues that must be settled before the trustworthiness of God can be truly vindicated. Until this issue of God's character is settled in every mind and heart, it will be impossible to defuse the power of evil, for evil relies on this question remaining unresolved, giving excuse for it to continue to flourish.
The teachings of appeasement as being required to satisfy God's presumed offense over sin is possibly the most sinister tactic of the enemy to keep us afraid of God and unable to trust His heart to the degree that is necessary to be fully reconciled to Him. By reversing the message of the cross to mean things completely opposite of its true meaning, Satan launched yet another coup against God's government that is now sponsored, promoted and championed by the very people claiming to represent Him. Yet the foul teaching of appeasement theology is simply a rework of the original lies about God's heart invented by Lucifer in heaven that started the whole sin problem to in the beginning. These sinister lies: that God cannot be trusted to be consistently selfless, and that artificial law enforcement is essential to supplement natural law when it fails to maintain order and avoid chaos, actually perpetuates evil.
Lucifer initially claimed he was offering an improvement on God's system by introducing the idea of artificial boundaries to keep moral beings from straying too far outside God's will. These additional boundaries would consist of artificial laws that would be artificially enforced to bring pain through artificial penalties. Thus fear of suffering would provide a security fence which Lucifer asserted would protect the universe from the chaos that might happen should anyone exploit their freedom to disobey the natural principles of heaven. What he failed to realize is that by introducing the new factor of fear, love itself would be undermined and would the results would eventually end in death, not security.
We see the cycle of sin and violence played out in earthly societies where governments oscillate between freedom for people to choose for themselves and live according to the natural laws of cause and effect, then strict law enforcement that increasingly strips people of their freedoms in the name of greater security. Yet the latter is a mirage that is impossible to accomplish, for robbing people of personal freedom in the name of improving security only leads to tyranny and increased exploitation, because in sinful hearts power always corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The key difference that must be noted however is that the One who actually does have absolute power does not follow this mantra's logic, because He is not selfish or even able to be tempted by selfish desires. The original lies of Lucifer about God harboring secret desires of selfishness are the same lies that spawn every other lie that must be defeated before evil will lose all its deceptive power over our thinking. God never needs to rely on intimidation, coercion or artificial enforcement of His laws to compel anyone to come into alignment with His will, for these methods are corrosive to the nature of love needed for finding fulfillment in intimacy between hearts filled with respect and affection.
God's government is based on love and love alone. This is represented by the Tree of Life. In God's design there is no need for artificial law enforcement to supplement any supposed weakness in God's government. In fact the very opposite is true, for if God were to release any sinner, including Satan, to the natural effects of their choices to violate the law of love as integrated into all creation, they would find themselves cut off from the only source of life that exists and the sure result would be that they would quickly die. Yet this would not be because God was punishing them for their sin but merely because the absence of life is by definition death. Yet keeping us confused on this issue is how Satan maintains fear in our hearts, and fear blocks us from believing and experiencing the true power of love. So grace, possibly the only artificial element in God's kingdom (if you want to call it artificial in some way), is what prevents every sinner from ceasing to exist immediately because it provides unmerited sustenance and life while natural law, if allowed to be experienced, would function just the opposite.
I suspect Lucifer understood God's graciousness enough from the very beginning to lead him to think he could construct an alternate system of life where he might leverage this grace factor to his own advantage. In seeking to convince intelligent beings to believe his subtle lies about God and enticing them with grand promises, he was able to get many to join him in his attempt to construct an artificial reality where everyone could live selfishly and yet exploit God's grace. Then he could be the god of this system of living apart from the principles of love while garnering praise and admiration while wielding power over his subjects to make him feel more important. At the same time he was relying on God's grace to keep him alive for eternity. In other words, Satan knew enough about God's grace that he thought he could count on it to keep himself alive indefinitely. But he didn't know enough about it to realize that God was wise enough to find a way to defeat Satan's apparently airtight logic. Thinking he could checkmate God, Satan took a huge risk in launching his own kingdom in his insurrection against God's kingdom based on love alone.
Satan likely felt confident for thousands of years that his kingdom could last forever, for he was confident that if God punished him with death, it would only serve to confirm his allegations against God that natural law was insufficient to deal with rebellion and artificial law enforcement really was needed to contain evil. If God punished Satan directly, Satan knew that evil would be impossible to extinguish. Knowing this about God he knew God would not destroy Satan and he felt safe.
Sadly most people today still subscribe to Satan's theories about the weakness of love without question, that a kingdom of love alone is untenable. Most believe that unless God threatens to impose death on sinners, it will be impossible for evil to ever be brought to an end. But Jesus was God's answer to this checkmate logic of Satan, for at the cross it became ominously clear to Satan that God in fact could expose his lies so clearly that Satan would eventually lose all his power gained through deception. Then there would be nothing preventing God from withdrawing His protection of grace over Satan's life which will expose Satan and all who follow him to the natural consequences of their own course.
This final conclusion of the war against God and His character will be achieved in such a way that God's principle of love will not compromised in the slightest. Otherwise Satan's assertion that love is not viable as an effective means to maintain order and peace in the universe would be justified and God would be seen as the deceiver and manipulator. This titanic struggle over who is more trustworthy to believe is the war we find ourselves in as these two opposing forces urgently seek our allegiance, for who we trust as having the truth determines the shape of our character and ultimately our destiny.
Paul urges us to be reconciled to God because of the cross of Christ. Yet tragically the message of the cross has been turned upside down by religion, insisting that Jesus died to appease an offended God rather than the other way around. For most of my life this false gospel of appeasement distorted my perceptions about the meaning of the cross making it impossible for me to understand how it was supposed to arouse any affection for God. I was told repeatedly that the cross was the greatest demonstration of love ever witnessed in the the universe. Yet as hard as I tried, I could never put the story together in a way that looked anything like love. The closest I could come was that somehow Jesus died to protect me from His angry Father in heaven, yet this made no sense to my heart. So I couldn't honestly praise God for the gift of His Son if that meant believing twisted views of why Jesus had to die. Yet for years I could not discern anything better in the story of the cross that made good sense, so I tried to avoid it or settle for tolerating expositions about it while continuing to pray for more understanding and simply waiting until God might chose to reveal it to me.
I was taught all my life that the cross of Christ was the most potent message of love ever given. Clearly the gospel centers around the cross, but until the definition of gospel – good news – could actually be proven as good in a more coherent way, I was reticent to witness in support of the cross of Christ until I had a compelling conviction in my own spirit that would not violate so badly my logic and sense. Somehow every explanation of why Jesus had to die never fit the pieces together in a way that sounded like good news, for they all seemed to require twisting parts of the story into contradictions that were avoided when asking honest questions. Yet I never gave up hope that God might reveal the truth to me in a way that my heart could actually embrace and that would bring real life to my soul. So as you see, this issue of the truth about the cross and why Jesus had to die has been an persistent issue for me much of my life, for I knew that until it clicked I could not be much of an authentic, honest Christian.
With my history of persistently asking questions and being frustrated with evasive or insulting answers about the cross, you might appreciate why I now get excited when I hear others asking similar sincere questions that might seem frustrating or difficult to answer with stock clichés from religion. I have a rather dim view of a lot of religion because it fails to lead people to a true knowledge of God and too often perverts the meaning of nearly every religious word and phrase. I believe most religion promotes a false gospel that allows power brokers in religion to control and manipulate and, yes, even fleece many people into supporting them financially. I appreciate the frustration Jesus must have felt as two times He entered the temple in His day to purge it of all the accouterments of commerce and power, trying to purge out the lies of the enemy so thinking people could see the real truth about God that can actually save us from our sin. Yet just as in our day, the religious establishment had too much invested in their carefully crafted system of monetizing salvation to tolerate such zeal for the truth about God, so in the end they tortured to death the very One who came to love them, rather than humbling themselves to admit that God was that different from what they taught people to believe. It was the corrupt and politically savvy Caiaphas who reflected the real disposition of religious establishments all through history when he juxtaposed Jesus and His view of God with the traditional religious and political establishments when he declared that either Jesus had to be eliminated or their entire systems of law and order would be threatened with eventual collapse.
What is the key difference between the truth as it is in Jesus and the thrust in religion that presumes that reconciliation means appeasement of an offended, angry deity needing to be placated? What is the difference between the true gospel Jesus brought that sets people free from the slavery of fear, and the false gospel masquerading as a formula we must embrace to counteract and resolve our predicament of condemnation and threats of punishment from God?
First I want to make it clear that there is not even a hint in Scripture that anything Jesus did somehow reconciled God to us. This is vital to see to begin to appreciate the saving truth of the real gospel, for if we imagine that in some way God needs to change His mind or feelings about us for us to be saved, we are already trapped in false ideas based on mistaken assumptions about the real problem of sin. If we fail to understand the nature of the original problem we will always latch onto the wrong solutions while ignoring the actual remedy needed to save us from the power of sin and death. This is vital to grasp given that a world dying in a sea of lies that grossly obscures the real truth and that can only be overcome through a true appreciation of the real meaning of blood of the Lamb and be broadcast with a clear testimony involving the very faith of Jesus.
The real problem of sin involves our animosity toward God, never any supposed animosity or offense on God's part towards sinners. This cannot be overemphasized, and if it doesn't make sense, then we need to understand the history of how rebellion and sin originated in the first place. I don't have time and space here to unpack all that, though it is important for coming to a true knowledge of salvation. Suffice it to say, God has never taken offense over anyone's sin – ever! Taking offense is part of sin itself, but God does not sin. So to insist in our teaching of salvation that something needs to change in the mind of God to get Him to let go of some offense on His part in order to forgive sinners is a lie of the enemy designed to keep us from the saving truth as revealed by Jesus. No, God never needs to change His mind to be reconciled with us, for God's heart has never deviated in the slightest from the very essence of who God is which is nothing but unconditional love alone. So to attempt to get God to change is an attempt to get God to no longer love us, and that is a real non-starter.
With this in view, we can see that in no way does God need to be reconciled to us. Let this sink in thoroughly, for the callousness brought about by the false teachings originated with Satan and taught by religion has greatly dulled our senses to this. This is a core truth that must be grasped in order for the actual good news gospel to take root in our hearts. There is nothing that God needs to change in disposition in order for us to be saved; all the change needing to happen in order to bring sinners into harmony with God must take place in us, never in God.
Once this core truth is settled we will find ourselves confronted with a sea of resistance as people everywhere will insist we are careening off into heresy and unbelief. The intensity of opposition by religion and even others outside religion may be relentless, for just as in Jesus' day, religious authority and power structures that benefited the few and lined the pockets of those manipulating power will not tolerate being exposed as frauds and will resist fiercely to protect their turf just as they did to Jesus.
One of the hallmarks that can be used to discern whether a teaching is true or is part of the false system is to check the spirit behind whatever teaching is being presented. If a teaching or person promoting a certain line of logic relies on fear to motivate people into conformity to their brand of truth, then be very wary of that direction. Scripture clearly warns us about this, for fear is the very currency of the kingdom of darkness but is not part of God's design for His children. The use of motivational fear designed to scare people into 'getting saved' can often actually move them into darkness about God. Even so, in this His amazing grace can overcome such actions of His enemy to guide people toward a place where they might be more open to discovering the real truth that saves. God knows that even though fear may seem very powerful, only the selfless agape love that originates with God has true power, and that only as we are touched by this love is it possible for us to be truly healed. Healing is the actual meaning of salvation rather than rescue from the out-of-control anger of an offended deity like the pagans believe and as most of Christianity purports.
For God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Fear is what drives the teachings of appeasement. Love is what motivates true reconciliation.
I want to touch on one more factor in this discussion of the differences between appeasement and reconciliation, the issue of sanctification.
For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:19)
I recently began to realize that the word sanctify obviously links to the word sanctuary. A sanctuary is a safe place. Thus to be sanctified could be seen to mean being made safe, and this is part of the definition of saved. To be sanctified means our being made safe, trustworthy to be around those who are vulnerable while never seeking to exploit them. Some insist that sanctify simply means to be set apart, yet being made safe involves being made different from most everyone else, for the norm among human beings is to exploit vulnerability to some degree or another. So a person who is safe would be a person very different from others outside the body of Christ where it is not safe. Given this perspective it is easier to understand why Jesus would sanctify Himself, for Jesus came to reveal that God is safe and is not the problem we ever have to worry about. If anyone is going to exploit our weaknesses it will never be God. This is the transforming truth with the power that sanctifies us to make us safe like Him.
For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, "I will declare your name to my brothers. In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise." Again, "I will put my trust in him." Again, "Behold, here I am with the children whom God has given me." Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:11-15)
This glorious truth, that God is far better than nearly anyone can dare to imagine, is the truth that when embraced reconciles us back into trusting God's heart fully. This is the ultimate goal of salvation, to reconcile us back to God by earning our trust won by the demonstration of Jesus loving and forgiving His enemies in real time while they do everything possible to get Him to retaliate. You can only trust someone who is safe, so Jesus came to debunk every lie against God that makes us afraid and hesitant to trust Him. This is how we are reconciled to God and which will solve the entire problem of sin. To be fully reconciled we must be delivered from every doubt about His trustworthiness and cleansed of every taint of appeasement theology in our beliefs about how God relates to sinners.
This theme of trustworthiness is the main theme of the grandest hallelujah chorus that will ever be experienced in the history of the universe. God alone is totally trustworthy, and it is to this end that all the efforts of heaven are bent on bringing into our lives the faith of Jesus, the testimony of the Lamb.
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. (Revelation 12:11 NRSV)
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, the Holy One, to receive the glory, the honor, and the power, for you created all things, and because of your desire they existed, and were created!"
I saw, and I heard something like a voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!" (Revelation 4:11; 5:11-12)