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Appeasement (Part Two)
Part One introduced the concept of appeasement—"granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace"—and provided a few examples of the policy at work before World War II and during the more recent Antifa riots in Portland, Oregon. Upon analyzing the various examples, a notable conclusion is that appeasement never works. It often just emboldens the aggressors to take advantage of the weakness they perceive in those who appease them.
In this vein, I present as Exhibit A my hometown of almost sixty years, the Windy City, Chicago, Illinois. Frankly, Chicago is broke—its bond rating is at Ba1, otherwise known as "junk status," which is only two steps above recently bankrupt Detroit, Michigan, and its public school system, both of which rate at Ba3. Amazingly, Chicago Public Schools rank even lower, at B1.
When Rahm Emanuel won Chicago's mayoral election in 2012, the city of Chicago had a $30 billion pension debt of its own, and Chicago Public Schools had a one-billion-dollar deficit. In addition, the city's teacher pension debt had recently ballooned to a breath-taking eight billion dollars. Mayor Emanuel had an opportunity to rein in some of those costs during negotiations with the Chicago Teacher's Union (CTU).
It would be an understatement to say that the CTU has deep and serious problems. Besides its crushing debt load, the CTU has negotiated the shortest school day and year among large municipality school districts. It also has dozens of nearly empty and underperforming schools. The CTU, however, did not care about rectifying these problems. Instead, the union went on strike for a week, and Mayor Emanuel's resolve buckled. He ended up acceding to their demands for higher pay, giving them a 17 percent raise over four years.
Last year, a similar opportunity presented itself to current Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her first contract negotiations with the CTU. The unfunded liabilities of the Chicago Teachers' Fund had grown to at least $12 billion (and it may be much higher). The mayor could have called the union to task and demanded that it work with her to remedy the fiscal crisis confronting the city and its taxpayers. But she did not. Like her predecessor, she offered an extremely generous contract to the union. She herself called it "the most generous" contract ever.
The teachers thought differently, though, calling a strike, this time for eleven days. After the mayor capitulated, teachers' salaries would rise between 24 and 50 percent over the five-year agreement—and this is in a school system that has shrunk by almost 28 percent over the last two decades. Their actions should not be surprising. According to the Chicago Tribune, the CTU struck eleven times between 1969 and 2019 and had threatened to strike eight other times.
An article on this compromise at Wirepoints.org concludes, "It's unfortunate that Mayor Lightfoot apparently doesn't understand cause and effect. . . . If she had possessed more resolve a year ago, ‘we' [sic] wouldn't be here." We can only hope that the mayor is learning that in this world, appeasement never works.
However, for Christians, the Bible shows a form of appeasement that always works. John the Baptist spoke of this kind of appeasement in John 1:29, "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Our Savior's death paid sin's penalty in full.
But it does more: The Bible twice (I John 2:2; 4:10) refers to Jesus as the hilasmos, "the propitiation for our sins" (emphasis ours). This Greek word describes "a sacrifice that appeases the wrath of God and makes God propitious (favorable) toward human beings." A propitiation is an offering to appease or satisfy an angry, offended party. These two verses in I John both speak of Christ's blood as an atonement for all confessed sin that appeases God's wrath.
In the Old Testament, the sin offering represents the just payment for sin, showing our need for a Savior. Like Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden of Eden after their sins (Genesis 3:22-24), our sins have likewise cut us off from the Creator. The ultimate sin offering given by Christ, however, provides for our continued communication with God.
Israel's priests burned the sin offering outside the camp (Leviticus 4:12, 21). Although it appeased God's just requirement of a payment for sin, it was not a sweet-savor offering because of the presence of sin. God mercifully forgives the sin based on Christ's perfect sacrifice, but He takes no satisfaction in it because sin is abominable, hateful, and evil to Him. Even so, our Savior's death satisfies the requirements for breaking God's law and appeases the Father's anger. He, too, died outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-12).
However, the living sacrifices represented by the burnt, grain, and peace offerings are called fragrances of appeasement to the Lord. Notice Exodus 29:18 in the Lexham English Bible: "And you will turn into smoke on the altar all of the ram; it is a burnt offering for Yahweh; it is a smell of appeasement, an offering by fire for Yahweh."
These "sweet aroma" offerings represent different aspects of the life of Christ. It is only because of our Savior's sinless life and death that we now have an opportunity to conduct ourselves in sacrificial love toward God and men in a way that satisfies our heavenly Father. In other words, Christ's propitiation provides the appeasing sacrifice, giving us the chance to live worthwhile lives of spiritual growth and service to and for God.
In this world, the only appeasement that will ever truly work is our Savior's life and death.