Once again I testify to everyone who lets themselves be circumcised that they are obliged to obey the entire law. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves! – Galatians 5:3,6,12 (NRSVUE adapted)
Sometimes we outwardly demonstrate our beliefs without realizing the implications. Critics might levy accusations of superficiality and hypocrisy, saying that we haven’t gone all in, that we don’t have enough skin in the game. Or to paraphrase Paul: Since you’re so keen on circumcision, why stop there? Cut off the whole thing!
Yikes! Paul’s sharp words often inflict the unkindest cuts, and his critique of circumcision treads dangerously close to anti-Judaism unless we read for deeper meaning. Dulling the edge, Paul is saying: If you’re going to do one part of something as a bold demonstration of commitment, know that you also need to do all the other parts that go with it. We might also reframe this as a call to really examine all that is connected to what we proclaim and what’s required of us when we proclaim it, and as a caution against mistaking our outward signs for inward transformation.
Our outward signs do not matter to Christ. What matters is our inward transformation and how we demonstrate that through love. How you choose to visibly mark that is up to you.
May my outward marks be the manifestation of my inward transformations through your love. Amen.