Why did God ask his people to be circumcised? Why not a tattoo or a shaved head or something less drastic? I’m sure many of you have asked the same question so let’s think about it.
For one, circumcision is something hidden, it’s a sign of commitment but also a sign of an intimate relationship. It’s not something that one does that says, “look how faithful I am.” It’s something that’s just between the circumcised and God.
Secondly, it is done in a person’s most private place where love is expressed through intimacy, something set apart for God’s purpose. It’s a reminder that God has authority in my life and in the life of the one I have married.
Finally, it is an act of obedience. Even the thought of it makes any man squeamish. To carry it out, especially in adulthood, takes a special kind of obedience towards one faith.
All these things involved a special relationship between the Creator and the created. It’s a very personal thing between a man and His God. At least that is what it was supposed to be.
As so often happens, we humans take something beautiful and scar it up with law. What once was seen as a personal choice of your commitment towards God became a requirement for salvation. If one was not circumcised, it was said, one could not be counted among the faithful.
Paul saw what circumcision had become and when some Jewish converts required it for admittance in the church, he had more than a few things to say about it.
First we go to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 7:19, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” Here we see Paul emphasizing obedience to the will of God. His message is that it is not circumcision that saves you but faithfulness and trust in your Creator.
Again, we read in Galatians 5:1-6, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
Those who live as if the law will save them are destined to perish in their sins because under the curse of sin it is impossible to fulfill it. Paul wanted the people in Galatia to know that if you get circumcised because you think it will save you, your thinking needs to change. Only faith in Christ will save you, faith founded in love.
What God is looking for is a circumcised heart, one that no one can see but by the good deeds you do. From Romans 2:25-29, “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
God knows you are not perfect because of sin, so He is not looking at salvation as something we could ever earn by keeping the law perfectly. Rather, He looks for the intimate commitment of the heart that is dedicated to righteousness. Yes, He wants us to keep striving for perfection. To do that takes a special obedience of the heart.
So, circumcise your heart. Dedicate your life in a personal and intimate way. Trust in God enough to make the kind of changes within you that show that you are in it for the long haul. You will be welcomed with open arms and the Lord will use you in great and mighty ways. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, accept my heart and mold it into one that cannot be moved towards lessor gods. Pierce the sin within me and do away with the darkness so that I might forever walk in Your light. Amen.