“I will write it on their hearts”
After centuries of tumultuous political and religious life in Israel, the prophet Jeremiah describes a new covenant with God, a covenant that will not be an outward contract between God and people – a contract often broken by humans – but an inward, built-in relationship that cannot be severed by our failings and waywardness. I picture this new covenant as more like a familial relationship: like a parent who simply cannot and will not give up on her child, no matter what.
I believe this new covenant which Jeremiah described six centuries before Jesus became embodied in God’s Messiah, or Christ, whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth. The covenant shifts from a conditional, breakable, external agreement, to an internal, unconditional, unbreakable relationship of love. Jesus described this kind of love in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (sometimes known as “the Gospel in miniature.”)
This new covenant shifts focus from getting to giving. God is not in it to get our adulation, devotion, or obedience (although these are not bad things!). God’s intention is to give Godself to us, and hopefully inspire us to give ourselves away too – for each other, and for the life of the world. The grain of wheat gives up its life, in order to bring growth and fruit. We do not seek to preserve our lives and hoard our goods, but rather give ourselves away and find abundant life.
The Prodigal Son lost it all, and found that in fact he still had what mattered: his father’s love. His father gave up control over his son and his inheritance, and found that he was rewarded with the freely-given love of the son he adored. This is the great paradox of Christian living. Jesus demonstrates this new covenant by giving his own life on the cross, and finding new life in God – for himself and for all of us. Go figure. JBM