Quick Thought Thursday: Atonement Theory

One of the things I like to do as I read the scriptures is write down just one thing, one quick takeaway from the section. For me, it’s a process that helps me move from simply reading the Word to allowing the Word to read me.

It’s a simple practice that anybody can do, it helps to reinforce what I’ve read, and it gives me an opportunity to engage with what the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach me.

This is my “quick thought” from today’s reading in Proverbs 16.

“Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.” ~Proverbs 16:6

Love and faithfulness atone for sin! “Atonement Theory” is that simple.

God is love, and love covers a multitude of sin. If an “Atonement Theory” lacks the deep abiding love of the Good Father, than it is incomplete because it has subtracted God from the equation. It is the Triune God’s unfailing love in Jesus’ actions from the Last Supper to the Accession that clearly makes known the full extent of his love for all creation and his desire to make atonement for the sins of the world!

Is Jesus our substitutionary atoning sacrifice, yes. Emphatically, yes! However, to stop there is cold, contractional, and incomplete. If we stop there, it’s as if the relationship is merely transactional and nothing more than a series of fulfilled obligations. It lacks the transformational reality of his deep abiding love for us. His self-sacrificing, self-giving, self-emptying love must to be expressed in any atonement theory!

Beyond that, any atonement theory that doesn’t accurately represent his love for us will focus too much on what we are saved “from” and have little vision for what we are saved “for.” Devoid of his love-first justice, courtroom depictions of atonement lack vision for the life Jesus is leading us into, and I believe we gain a better understanding of that life when we consider the model of adoption because he loves us the way a good parent loves a child. Jesus doesn’t just love us to save us from something, he loves us to save us for something, an adoptive relationship in the life-giving family of God!

Jesus saved us from death for life because we are his beloved children and he is our Good Father. Understanding atonement through the lens of this faithfully loving relationship gives us greater insight into who we are, who he is, and how we can rightly relate to him.

This is what I heard in today’s reading, what did you hear?

#1Peter4:8 #1John4:16 #John13:1

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