This is the seventieth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
See Mel Lawrenz’s book, How to Study the Bible: A Practical Guide.
“I will put my law in their minds.” Jeremiah 31:33
The idea of a perfect society is called utopia, a term coined by Sir Thomas More in his fictional book Utopia (1516), which described an island where a community lived with perfect law, justice, and politics. In the late 1700s, a religious group known as the Shakers attempted to form a utopia. They held to common ownership of all property, pacifism, celibacy, and confession of sins. Communism aimed for a utopia. North Korea claims to be a utopia—though living there is more like living in hell.
The word utopia, by the way, literally means no place.
The best kind of human society or community we can hope for on earth is one God forges—a “covenant community.” He calls us to live in the covenant.
Jeremiah 31 describes the best community, one based on the “new covenant.” God makes this happen because we, mankind, are not capable of creating true civilization, much less a utopia.
“The days are coming when I will make a new covenant [with my people].
I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another,
‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:31–34)
The best community begins with an internalization of God’s law, written on our hearts. Most people think God makes rules, tells us the rules, and then we’d better follow them—or else. That does not work. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, we can know God’s law internally. We can obey God instinctually. When we do the right thing, it is because it is right and because we want to do it.
“I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God asserts this. He will do it. We cannot create it. God’s love and power make it happen.
“They will all know me, from the least to the greatest,” means that the knowledge of God, and a relationship with God, are available to everyone, not just the priests. All made possible because of God’s total forgiveness.
There is no utopia. But we are called to something better: God’s new covenant community.
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.