Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth
Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
Part 69: Forgiveness: A New Law Written on Their Hearts
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) What is the nature of this new law?
Before answering this question, we must first identify the nature of the old law. All laws involve judgment and separating “good” from “evil” people. By their very nature, they have a scapegoating element in which the transgressions of the mob are heaped upon a minority of people. For example, the law is quick to punish the violent criminal, which makes it easier to ignore how communities – parents, neighbors, schools, etc. – contributed to the violent person’s aggressiveness.
When the Hebrews left Egypt, they needed the law to keep order and avoid chaotic anarchy. Jeremiah prophesied of a time when the Hebrews would no longer need the law. Instead, God’s law would be written on everyone’s heart, and nobody would need instruction. It would be known by the least and greatest. Isaiah similarly prophesied a time in which “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” and consequently generate all Creation will live harmoniously and nonviolently. (Isaiah 11:6-9) The key element of the new law comes at the end of the Jeremiah passage above, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Once forgiven, they can become a loving community that has no need to justify themselves. They would not think that, in order to gain self-esteem, they would need to be better than their neighbor. Instead, their self-esteem would derive from knowing that God loves them. With God’s love written on their hearts, they would mimic God’s love and mercy in their relationships with each other. They would no longer need laws to curb their tendencies towards violence and other forms of hurtfulness. Their sense of self-esteem would derive from their knowledge that God values them, not from their ability to dominate their peers (which leads to mimetic hostilities). When one’s self-esteem is grounded on God’s love, one naturally desires to reflect and to magnify God’s love. One’s actions, then, show love, compassion, and caring as natural expressions of faith. Consequently, Jesus gave the following simple formula to distinguish between true and false prophets: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16a) In contrast, those struggling to gain self-esteem try desperately to magnify themselves, hurting other individuals in the process.
Rev. Nuechterlein has written, “The old law may shame us, and the old law may restrain us, and the old law may blame us, but it cannot change us. But at the foot of the cross, it is God’s merciful forgiveness which can change us.”
Go on to
Part 70: Forgiveness: The Sunflower
Return to Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
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