Good Friday Meditations- Moral Influence

Good Friday Meditations: Moral Influence

Our final contemplation on the atonement of Christ deals with the problem of our lack of love for God and our lack of motivation to follow him. This model is focused on human feelings, desires, and affections. Jesus Christ himself directly connected affection to obedience: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). The model of Moral Influence is often credited to a somewhat wonky medieval theologian by the name of Peter Abelard, but the main gist of this view is found all throughout Scripture.


Metaphorical Reflection:

A high school teacher who acts as a loving and caring mentor to her students—selflessly sacrificing her time and energy for their well-being—profoundly impacts the life of one of her teenagers. The teacher’s care and kindness kindle a flame in this student’s heart; the student is moved to follow in her teacher’s footsteps and live by her example. After graduating college, this former student now becomes a high school teacher herself. As she continually recalls the caring love of her mentor, she can’t help but care for her own students in the same way.  


The love of God is most clearly and most profoundly expressed in the atonement. The redemptive work of Christ is the concrete demonstration of God’s love. It is God’s act of love for the world. The word of the cross is ultimately the word of God’s self-sacrificial love for humanity. One might even say that the cross is the proof that God is love and that he loves us.

When we truly experience the love of God, it changes us; it fills our hearts, stirs our affections, and permeates our souls. This inner transformation incites us to action. God’s act of love in the atonement motivates us to obey his teachings and to live lives that are pleasing to him. Our obedience should be an expression of our gratitude to God; it should be a response to his love for us. Christ gives us the ideal example of what it looks like to obey God: through love, mercy, justice, faithfulness, selflessness, humility. Of course, God in Christ through the Spirit does not simply give us the motivation, nor just the example, but also the power to live for him. 

Biblical Mediations:

  • Rom 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
  • 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”
  • John 13:13-15: “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” 
  • 1 Pet 2:21-25 (Christ, the one who “bore our sins in His body on the cross,” is our example)
  • Eph 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

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