God gave Israel the Day of Atonement as a time for soul-searching, repentance and restoring broken relationships with him. Today many consider this concept of returning to God and seeking his acceptance archaic and irrelevant. For the most part, our 20th-century society has not been raised to accept obligations toward others, let alone obligations toward God, who is Wholly Other.
It is neither natural nor common for people to want to be joined to God. Why,” they reason, “must we be at one with anything or anyone?” In an age that exalts individuality and identity, many find the idea of conforming almost offensive. In all seriousness, they ask, “Why shouldn’t everyone have their own way, as long as they don’t harm anyone else?” They ask that stupid question as if somehow it were possible for people absolutely to have their own way without hurting others. They ask as though they deserve whatever they want and there is enough of everything for everyone to have and be the best and the most. They speak as though wanting and desire never lead to lust, and as though lust and greed never lead to aggression, and as though each component of a person’s life is separate and needs nothing to make it part of the whole.
All this self-centeredness and greed do not arise from ordinary needs. They stem from a pandemic disease that afflicts every living person. That disease, spiritual heart trouble inherited from our father Adam, is what God calls “sin.” From the depths of our hearts all humanity is sinful.
The metaphor of the heart refers to the innermost being. When individuals exhibit no compassion or feeling for anyone other than endured, we say they have “lost heart.” We call the anguish of unrequited love a “broken heart.”
The Old Testament Hebrew lev, which is translated as “heart,” is better translated “innards.” Sometimes in the Old Testament lev is also rendered “bowels.” It matches our modern slang word “guts,” often used to indicate fortitude, courage and resolve.
Another familiar term, “together,” began in the ’70s with the “flower children.” A “together” person was one who had emotional stability and knew what he or she wanted and where he or she was going in life. In God’s sight, however, we are all “untogether.” Disconnected from God through sin, our lives have become fragmented.
The goal of the whole person is to serve God, but through the “sin disconnection” the various components of the personality mushroom outward, away from the center. The emotions become monsterized. Proper concern for food and shelter turns to greed. The desire to love and give changes to lust and a desire to use and consume. Ordinary need for protection is distorted into prejudice, suspicion and mistrust. A minor annoyance becomes a major affront. An inconvenience becomes an impossible situation. This happens because all the elements of our lives are pulling against each other, creating unbearable tensions that can leave us quaking with unimaginable fear, untenable anger or unbearable desire.
When this happens, like Humpty Dumpty in his fall, we break and splatter. But unlike Humpty Dumpty, of whom it was said, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again,” God can put us together again. He can get our innards working together and thus repair the broken heart.
In sin we are not merely disheartened, we are “disemboweled,” but there is a cure. We can be given new “innards.” Atonement is the solution to sin and its consequences of alienation from God, self and society. Atonement, the condition of being at one, heals the disintegration of soul and spirit.
In seeking a panacea for the human condition apart from God, we often fail to recognize that people are turned against themselves. They change direction so frequently that they never arrive at their intended destination and never reach their life’s goals.
Imagine a person who has struggled hard to qualify for and complete medical school. From his earliest self-awareness he has wanted to relieve physical suffering and save lives. He has become a virtual slave to that purpose, enduring great hardships to achieve his education, working inhuman hours to complete a difficult internship and finally a residency.
He performs brilliant emergency room work, but then he takes a slightly different direction. Seeking to develop a specialty, he decides on plastic surgery so he can help those who suffer from congenital deformities and disease-related disfigurement. As he specializes in plastic surgery, he is drawn to the most lucrative aspect of that field which involves hair transplants, face lifts, tummy tucks, liposuction—and relatively few emergencies. Certainly there is nothing wrong with a branch of medicine that serves to improve human appearance, but in this case, has that doctor not become somewhat disconnected from his original purpose of selflessly spending himself to save human lives and alleviate suffering?
Usually the disconnection of a person from his or her major goals is not so perceptible. Consider the believer who loves the Lord so much that he wants to be a minister. Since he is a dynamic person who can gather a flock and is already a gifted speaker, he feels he need not submit to any formal training. He tells himself and others that he will continue to study as he ministers, or he may even take the pietistic position that God will teach him all he needs to know. (That is not to imply that God does not teach people, or that there are not some effective ministers who have had no formal training. Yet this is not the usual way.) Finally, worst of all, it may never occur to that untrained or self-trained minister that the flock he seeks to gather deserves more from him than he is willing to give in order to be an effective pastor.
That once idealistic emergency physician who has limited himself to cosmetic surgery and that committed Christian who wants to minister without training share a common flaw. Each has become detached from his intended goal! The physician has forgotten why he first sought medical training, and his noble motivation has faded and changed. The untrained minister, in wanting to avoid the difficult process of training, also has become disconnected from his high calling and destiny.
When such major disconnections in one life become many—and this often happens—we say that the personality is disintegrating. The disintegrated personality does not lead immediately to a crumbled consciousness. Instead it leads to a changed sense of reality and a changed value system.
The primary disconnection, however, is the disconnection from God as our source of strength, direction and knowledge. That one disconnection leads to many disconnections, so that the individual becomes a disintegrated personality.
The integrated personality is connected to the purpose of being. Well-integrated individuals understand their purpose in life and are able to focus on the process of developing themselves to fulfill their destinies. Totally integrated personalities are at one with self because they are at one with God. They draw their sense of reality from the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
The act of Atonement is just what it sounds like—the joining of God and man, so that we enter into this state of at-one-ment. The potential for that condition was initiated and achieved by God at Calvary, but we must enter it by faith.
This is a very solemn time of year when Jewish people are commanded to afflict their souls in contrition for sins. Nevertheless, it can be a time of celebration as well if we know our sins are forgiven. As we approach the Day of Atonement, we who are Jews for Jesus contemplate the finished work of Christ at Calvary. We meditate and give thanks for the oneness we have with God because of his atonement for our sin. We invite all who have experienced this oneness to rejoice with us, for Yeshua has turned our mourning into joy. Christ our Savior died for our sins, and now we are integrated with God Almighty. Praise his name forever!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, the picture on the front page is Moishe. No, he is not a disintegrated personality because Yeshua made him whole. The art idea was his, and he said if we were going to “chop up” anyone’s face like that, he would rather bear the degradation himself.