It started as a beautiful thing. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest made sacrifices for himself, the people, and everything contaminated by sin. But there was this one goat that was kept alive “to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat” (Leviticus 16:10). Aaron laid the sins of the community on the head of a homely little goat, and some poor guy was elected to take the goat way into the wilderness and leave it there. Then he hurried back before the goat could follow and bring guilt and shame back where it belonged.
We put the scapegoat on steroids. Politicians display him in an absurd sideshow. Everything bad is the other party’s fault. What do they teach their children about taking personal responsibility? The rest of us join right in. We look for someone to blame so we can avoid that hot, sweaty feeling of admitting our own mistakes. I think we should send all the people who never uttered the words “I was wrong” to a distant planet and leave them there.
There’s only one way to be forgiven for scapegoating, including the way I did it in the preceding paragraph. Our blame has been placed on Jesus. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” Let’s change those ways because “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).