The Heart of the Matter

Law matters.  Some times we New Testament people behave lie we have grown up out of the Ten Commandments because we have Jesus and we really know God.  So, when Jeremiah said I am writing the law on your heart in chapter 31, he was insisting the law would sear on our consciences; become second nature in the way it is first nature to God.  The rules that regulate our faith life together give us a peek at God’s heart.  They teach us how God loves us and how we are to love one another.  The bottom line, in both covenants God wanted love to rule, but sometimes as the apostle Paul said law is our tutor until our hearts to beat as one with God’s heart.

When you first meet someone you are attracted to or want to know, you have lots of questions and listen carefully to see what she loves, what he likes, what bothers her, what moves him, that sort of thing.   As you come to know that person deeply, there is a desire to please and anticipate what would please the one you love.  After a while, you learn what to say and not to say, how to act and not act.  Before long, you get to where you move before you are asked.  You finish each others sentences.  Words are unnecessary because you come to know your lover or friend by heart.

This is the kind of relationship God wants.  God doesn’t want people to have to be instructed by written codes that are enforced by others who claim to know God better.  That kind of Christianity ends up like the Puritan piety with people looking at their neighbors for what they are doing wrong, pointing fingers, and creating a climate of mistrust.  A community that lives in fear of wrongdoing rather than by faith in right-doing is a sick community.  Relationships based on “oughts” and “shoulds” never rise to the freedom and joy God desires.

The something new promised by Jeremiah in this new covenant is God will not rest until we know God so well we don’t need to be taught anymore because we have caught the heart of God.  God moves the ten words from stone tablets to human hearts and becomes even more involved under our skin until our faith is formed and character reformed.

When you get down to the heart of the matter, knowing God deeply and intimately is about forgiveness—God’s forgiving nature and our acceptance and practice of it.  It isn’t just a matter of getting all the “dos” and “don’ts” tattooed on our hearts; it’s about having the heart of God transplanted into our own.  This means we are convinced we are forgiven as the Lord promises.  This means we begin to practice forgiveness toward others and ourselves.  We may think what ruins relationships is the way we hurt each other with our wrongdoings of some kind.  It isn’t sin that comes between us as much as the lack of forgiveness.  When we forgive one another, we build a bridge back to the heart of our beloved.  When we are forgiven, we can be at ease in the presence of our beloved again.

This is what God has done to enable us to know God intimately in the old and new covenants.  God desires to write that reality of forgiveness on and in our heart.  “God has forgiven our iniquity”, Jeremiah tells us, “and remembers our sin no more.”  Now that is the heart of the matter.

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