If we’re truly honest, I bet each of us has been saved in one form or another by a scapegoat. What I mean is simply this. Each of us has benefited in some way when another person has taken the blame for something we have done. Sometimes our scapegoating comes about in unintentional ways. At other times, it is so very deliberate on our part.
Take for example an incident that happened to me (or maybe because of me) in the second grade. I have changed the names to protect the “innocent”. Johnny was a real stinker of a kid. He was obnoxious and downright mean-spirited toward me and my friends. So, one day I devised a plan to get even with Johnny. I, along with my best friend Billy, would produce an I-know-what-you-did letter “from the teacher” (really from us) that would get Johnny to confess to some “crime” he had committed. It was a brilliant plan, on my part, but poorly executed by my friend, the real author of the “teacher’s” letter. In all my planning, I had failed to take into account that my friend Billy didn’t write or spell very well. So, when Johnny got the letter from the “teacher”, he marched up to her desk and shared with her the letter she had supposedly penned.
What happened next is a bit of a blur. The entire class was given the “we-aren’t-going-to-lunch-until-the-person-who-wrote-this-letter-confesses” speech by the teacher. That is when my friend Billy became the scapegoat. I tried to rationalize my fault at the outcome of this situation. It was technically Billy who had written the letter, and it wasn’t my fault that he couldn’t spell like a teacher. Still, my heart was breaking inside for Billy as he took the tongue-lashing. I sat at my desk, pretending to read a book, fighting back tears, as poor Billy was humiliated in front of the entire class of seven and eight-year-olds. Looking back now at my actions, I realize that a stronger man would have fessed-up to the teacher, but I was not that stronger man. Besides, fake-reading while letting Billy take the fall seemed like the better alternative.
So, why do I tell you all of this? I guess it’s to show that human beings, even second-grade ones, have figured out that each of us needs a scapegoat in life. Each of us is laden with guilt and shame, and we need a “Billy” to “take one for the team” for us. I’m so grateful that I had a friend like “Billy” in my life. But I’m more thankful that I have a friend named Jesus. I’ll have some final thoughts about that tomorrow.