[Mar 25]—Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Jeremiah 24:1-7

How do we make a better society? That’s a good question, a practical one, and it divides people pretty strongly. Some people say that we need to reform society through better laws and government. And there’s some legitimacy to that. We need laws in order to keep the structures and foundation of civilization from crumbling. But what’s the purpose of law? Is it to reform society or to protect society? There’s plenty of scriptural evidence that the law/government is meant to protect us from anarchy and chaos (such as Romans 13:1-4), but none that I can find that it’s there to reform it.

So how do we do it? I think the answer is located in today’s passage, but it’s a theme that’s repeated in the Bible. The Lord said that when the exile comes, he will “give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Here are some others: he will circumcise our hearts so we will love him with all our heart and soul, he will write his law on our hearts, and he will take out our heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh.

You seek, you can write all the laws you want, but they won’t mean a thing unless people obey them. And the only way they’re going to obey them--without an authority looking over their shoulder--will be if they have that law “written on their hearts” (as Jeremiah puts it). Do we want a type of society in which a legal authority is looking over our shoulder more and more and more?

But if the law’s written on our hearts, then we’ll want to obey. From today’s passage, if God gives us a heart to know him and we return to him, then we’ll see a change in our personal lives. And if more and more people get their hearts changed, then you’ll see a change in society. I’m aware of multiple times in British and American history in which it’s happened, since I’m more familiar with those country’s histories. Of course, our main purpose isn’t to bring down rates of crime, divorce, abortion, etc., but it’s a fact that during times in which masses of individuals got right with God those side-benefits also occurred.

But it all comes down to me. Has the Lord changed my heart, so I want to obey and please him? And if so, is that reflected enough in my personal life? Am I kind and loving in my speech to my wife? Am I scrupulously honest in my business practices? Am I faithful in giving to my church? If not, then something’s wrong.

This also means that in our evangelism and discipleship efforts, we need to concentrate on conversion. A turning of a person’s heart to the Lord will be reflected in changes in lifestyle. Maybe not overnight, but it will be.

And finally we need to take a more realistic view of human nature in our legal system and election promises. Quite frankly, anyone who promises to change society through laws is probably naïve at best.

It’s from the inside-out, not the outside-in.

Father God, it all comes back to me, doesn’t it? It’s me who constantly needs a course correction, multiple times a day. And it’s only you who can do it. Please.

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