Hello @KMac. I do agree with you that Jesus did not deserve the condemnation and execution He received. But as a brother, I would say that we have to be careful in seeming to insinuate that the atonement is unjust, because the dealings of God are all just. There is no injustice on the part of God.
Shabir Ally would say that Christ dying for our sins is cosmic child abuse. And if this is the case, then for Muslims who want to see a great God, then they would not see the Christian God as worthy of worship.
Because God’s greatness and majesty is very important in Islam (they have an Arabic word for it “Allahu Akbar” which means that God is greater), we have to be careful in a sense that when we communicate Christian doctrines, this must show God more majestic and greater than the God of Islam.
So yes, we assert that it is just for God to have Jesus die in our place. As an illustration, I would use Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York presided over a court case, which is about an old woman who was caught stealing bread so that she could feed her grandchildren. The shopkeeper demanded justice, and LaGuardia judged her guilty and imposed a ten dollar fine. At the same moment, LaGuardia took ten dollars from his own wallet and paid the fine on behalf of the old woman.
We sin against God. And we are all guilty. God himself pays for what we have done. This is not forced but is done on His own accord.
Another analogy I like is Abdu Murray’s analogy of someone agreeing to be a guarantor in paying for another person’s debt. If they freely accepted in paying for it, then there won’t be any injustice if another person pays for another person’s debt. If it’s possible for us in human terms, then there won’t be any injustice for Jesus dying on the cross for our sins in order to pay for the penalty of our sins and purchase a place for us in heaven.
This sacrifice of God aside from showing God’s justice, also shows God’s love as well. As I remember from a former Shia Muslim, Abdu Murray said, “the incarnation and the cross of Christ are the greatest possible demonstration of the greatest possible love from the greatest possible being.”
Since God is the greatest possible being, He would express the greatest possible ethic in the greatest possible way. This is through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our salvation from our sins.
This love far transcends human love. We can sacrifice for people who love us in return. But God made this sacrifice for those who hated Him. This is God’s love for us.
This reminds me of a quote I love from Nabeel Qureshi’s book, “No God but One”:
“…let’s imagine that you are on your way to a very important ceremony and are dressed in your finest clothes. You are about to arrive just on time, but then you see your daughter drowning in a pool of mud. What would you do? Let her drown and arrive looking dignified, or rescue her but arrive at the ceremony covered in mud?”
Her response was very matter of fact, “Of course, I would jump in the mud and save her.”
Nuancing the question more, I asked her, “Let’s say there were others with you. Would you send someone else to save her, or would you save her yourself?”
Considering this, Sahar responded, “If she is my daughter, how could I send anyone else? They would not care for her like I do. I would go myself, definitely.”
I paused for a short moment before continuing, “If you, being a human, love your daughter so much that you are willing to lay aside your dignity to save her, how much more can we expect God, if he is our perfectly loving Father, to lay aside his majesty to save us?”"