|"Crucifixion" Salvador Dali 1954|
“…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts…” (Jeremiah 31:33)
Psychologists tell us that the brains of middle school students are not fully developed. I spent six agonizing years as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, and I can attest that—fully developed or not—the middle school brain is diabolically clever. These kids may not know much about grammar, spelling, or punctuation, but they could pass the bar exam as jailhouse lawyers.
“I wasn’t chewing gum, Mr. Griffiths. I was only sucking on a wad of gum. My jaws didn’t move. Ergo: I violated no rule against chewing gum in class.”
You get the idea.
One of my colleagues at the last school where I taught refused to post a list of rules in his classroom. His logic was that the average middle school student is capable of devising more infractions than a list can enumerate. He therefore let it be known that any behavior he deemed to be disrespectful or detrimental to the education of others was prohibited and subject to disciplinary action. He further maintained that the students were old enough to know what such behaviors would be.
My fellow educator’s vison for classroom decorum is, I think, something of an echo of that vison which that quixotic prophet Jeremiah has for the new Kingdom of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). In a perfect world, there will be no need for rules and regulations. Everyone will have God’s Law written on their hearts, and covenants will become obsolete.
This is a pretty swell vision to hold onto as we near the end of our Lenten journey. When we contemplate Jesus “lifted up from the earth (John 12:32),” we should find that we have no more need for the Law and its lifeless, static regulations. What we have instead is the picture before our eyes of a man bleeding and dying, mocked, disgraced, helpless as an old lady in a nursing home, and more lonely than we could imagine (or maybe you could. I don’t know). We also see the love and compassion and forgiveness that flows off the cross with his blood. It is a visceral image—forgiving his tormentors, creating family for his mother with the disciple, comforting the dying thief—all as his life is slowly draining from him. With this before us, do we really need a set of rules or any kind of contract?
Like the grain of wheat which “dies” in the earth, we needed to lose Jesus in order to find him. We have to see him suffering for and with us in order to grasp his love, and we need him to ascend to the Father so we can take on his mission here on earth and bear the fruit he intended for us to bear.
The new covenant, as we say in the Words of Institution, is in his blood shed for us. It’s not a list of rules, it’s now a relationship with Jesus. The simple phrase, “What would Jesus do?” is actually rather poignant, don’t you think? But instead of asking for our Lord’s advice on daily behavior, a better question might be: Who would Jesus have us be?
Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Please come again.