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The Gift of Limits

“But this is the covenant that 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 on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “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 remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NRSV)

Methodism has long been a religion of the heart. Based on the words of Jeremiah, Judaism has been a religion of the heart, too. The Methodist brand of Christianity is inextricably tied to a personal relationship with God. From the beginning of creation, God has sought to bring us into a relationship with him, and on our good days, we seek a relationship with God in return. It’s when we want to be our own God that we get in trouble. And when we rebel against God, God lays down the law. The law is the tool that tells us how far we have strayed from God.

At the same time, God’s use of the law has always been about providing healthy boundaries for our relationship with him and our relationship with others. Look at the Ten Commandments. Each of the commandments relates specifically to a boundary in our relationships with God or others (i.e., our parents, spouse, neighbors, and even possessions). When we break those laws, relationships suffer.

So, when God “writes the law upon our hearts,” we become aware of how our sinful boundary violations negatively impact our relationships, and we seek to reconcile ourselves with God and with others. Here is the beautiful part: Even when we fail to live up to the spirit of the law of love that God has placed in our hearts, God’s love is so great that God continues to love us no matter what. And because God loves us, if we’re aware of God’s presence, even in our brokenness, we can feel God working in the interior of our lives, reforming and reshaping us into a better version of ourselves.

Incrementally, the love of God is transforming our hearts and helping us to grow more and more into the people God created us to be. By paying attention to our hearts and listening for where God is speaking in our lives, we grow in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ that helps us become better people. The law does not transform our hearts—our relationship with God transforms us and increases our desire to please him. May you grow in love and grace this week and every week!

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