Saturday, May 8, 2010

Circumcision...(seriously): On Religion vs. Relationship

Galatians 2:3; 6b
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even through he was a Greek...

God does not judge by external appearance.

I'm starting this post was a massive disclaimer.  I understand that this passage in Galatians has a tremendous amount of theological implications, and I am in no way a theological scholar.  With that said, there is a part of Galatians 2 that has had tremendous effect on my life and has brought me conviction.  I share with this heart in mind. 

In Galatians 2, Paul is speaking to the Galatians regarding his ministry.  He is reporting the evidence of God at work in order to gain credibility from them.  With all the important parts of his letter, he takes time to focus on one major thing: freedom in Christ.  In fact, that small word is the foundation of the entire book of Galatians proclaiming that, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free". 

Paul was concerned that there were a group of believers who he called "false brothers" who were trying to take that freedom away by focusing their salvation on external acts rather than the heart.  So much so, that they tried to convince Titus, a Greek missionary who was traveling with Paul, to be circumcised

Paul was enraged by this, and saw this as a form of slavery.  Christ had set us free from the rituals and rules of religion, yet they were trying to impose the bondage of religion-based acts.  They were more focused on Titus becoming externally religious, than they were focused on his internal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sounds sadly familiar in a way, doesn't it?  How many times have we as Christians judged or ranked people based on their external appearances?  How many times have we let religion take precedence over true relationship with Jesus Christ?  How many times have we asked people to change their clothes, their piercings, their hair...their habits, their hang-ups, their addictions, their struggles....before allowing Christ to work in their lives?  We lead them into religion before leading them into relationship. 

I think many times we are the ones who get hung up on these things.  I think many times we usher people into the bondage of religion because it makes us, in some way, feel a little better or look a little more holy.  It's nice to have a little bit of "proof" that someone is changing, and so we look to external things for that proof. 

The sobering reality is, God doesn't.  He goes straight to the heart...and friends, that is exactly where we should go too, if we have any hopes of becoming like Jesus Christ.  Let's not allow ourselves for even a moment to fall into the traps of religion, or usher others into that same trap.  Let us rejoice in the freedom we have in Christ, and let us rejoice in the freedom others have in Christ. 

It is up to Christ to do the saving work.  It is up to Him to change hearts and lives.  It is up to him to change in us what he sees fit.  So...let's be careful to let Him make those calls, not us. 

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."


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