Is the word “propitiate” a part of your vocabulary?
This important word, which sadly has fallen out of common use, means to appease the wrath of another by offering a gift that renders one person as favorably disposed toward another. Let me give you an example.
When we were in seminary, my wife supported us by selling furniture. In our final year, she won a three-day cruise for two in the Caribbean. We needed a break, so we went and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves — except for one incident. There were lots of furniture-store owners at our table, but one in particular took an interest in us because he also was a Presbyterian.
Well, that night we noticed this man and his wife having a great time at the piano bar. The next morning, I made the mistake of mentioning how we saw them last night at the piano bar, and you should have seen the look his wife gave him. As it turned out, this man was not with his wife after all but with his store manager, who looked so much like her.
We didn’t see that couple again until the last meal of the cruise. It was then that, in anger, he said to me as he pointed to the large rock on his wife’s finger, “This is what you cost me!”
Yes, to propitiate his wife’s wrath he had to offer her a gift that would render her favorably disposed to him.
As opposed to this store owner who was able to propitiate his wife’s wrath, we find ourselves in the terrible position of not being able to do the same with God. For you see, God’s standard is perfection. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” We are far from being perfect, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, all of us are sinners, one and all, for there is none righteous. No, not one. But, God — being “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth” — offered the gift of propitiation for us in the form of His Son, who lived the perfect and holy life.
Yes, to propitiate God’s wrath for us, Jesus paid our penalty on the cross so that God would be rendered favorably disposed towards us. As we read in Isaiah 53:6, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has gone our own way. But He (God the Father) has laid the sin of us all on Him (God the Son).”
I pray if you have not received the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, you will right now. Then, this coming Valentine’s Day will be full of gratitude. As the old song “Oh, How I Love Jesus” goes, “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”
Banks is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Hinesville and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.