In Jeremiah's time God's people thought they were doing the right thing. Under King Josiah the kingdom was engaged in a strong back-to-God movement -- dusting off the old laws, refurbishing the Temple, reforming religious practice, and trying to be more conscious of the good-old-days emphasis on being God's people in the world.
But Jeremiah saw it wasn't enough. Their old-time religion and the way they were God's people in the good old days didn't bring them up to speed with where God was and what God was desiring in their present day. Simply following old laws and re-creating old practices in a new day did not necessarily incarnate what those laws and practices were an expression of in their time, which was lived-out love of God and of neighbour.
What really are all our laws and best social contracts if not an attempt to define and en-flesh for our time a practice of love as the basis of all life on Earth?
And there are at least two perpetual problems with this.
One is that as long as the law of love is not written internally on every human heart, our external laws and best social contracts will always at some point be broken and in need of repair. Another is that there is always a need in each generation and age to develop and define the practice of love in ways that were either not necessary or not imagined previously, and this can only be done well by people whose hearts are shaped internally by the law of love.
Jeremiah understood this, and felt inspired by God to suggest that a day would come when the law of love would be fully and deeply written on the human heart. As Christians we believe this came true in Jesus.
But is it true of humanity beyond him? And if it is not true of all humanity, nor true of any of us all of the time, what can we do to help maximize the witness and role of love in our time?
Two other questions that may be a focus of reflection this Sunday:
- Are the laws and social contracts of our country today an expression of love? Do they teach and encourage the practice of love?
- Are there areas of life and of relationship in which we are now aware of needing to understand and develop the practice of love in ways we didn't think of or didn't need to before, and what kinds of laws or social contracts might result from this?