July 23, 2013

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I can’t say that I refer to this verse very often, but it is certainly right there in the foundation of what I believe it is to be a Christian. Most modern Christians don’t have that firm a grasp of what Paul is saying here because circumcision isn’t an issue in churches today. However, we do at least understand what circumcision is, so the expression used in the Japanese translation, that it’s “no big deal,” should have some impact. I don’t think any man would think it was “no big deal!” That helps put what Paul is saying into perspective. There are lots of things that various churches consider “big deals,” and they use them as tests of fellowship. I remember a joke about a Christian who came across another man who was about to jump from a bridge to kill himself, and he started to “talk him down” as they say. It turned out that the despondent man was also a Christian, and as the first man kept asking more questions, they had more and more religious points in common. However, as he “drilled down” he came to one very arcane point on which they disagreed. To this point the jumper had been relaxing, and feeling a sense of kinship seemed very comforted. However, finding the disagreement, the passerby shouted “Heretic!” and pushed the jumper off the bridge. We laugh, but I have seen situations that were practically that absurd. God calls us to unity in Christ, not to split hairs and try to be “more acceptable to God” than our brother. This is not to belittle points of faith, but to say that we must not let secondary matters interfere with “faith expressing itself through love.”

I have said that this truth is foundational for me. It is the reason this church is not affiliated with any denomination. That’s because as soon as you bear a denominational name, some people start putting you into that denominational box, either for good or for bad. There is then little opportunity for faith to express itself through love in that relationship. I hold strongly to what I believe and consider the Bible to be the ultimate arbiter on this earth, but I seek not to let anything get in the way of my fellowship with anyone who genuinely believes in Jesus Christ as his saving Lord. That has me rubbing shoulders with people with whom I have strong disagreements, but I still see them as brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, if circumcision is “no big deal,” then how big a deal is it exactly how and to whom Communion is served, for example?

Father, as I wrote I recognized the danger in myself to feel proud that I am “more enlightened” on this issue than others. What irony! That’s exactly what causes such divisions in the first place. Help me indeed trust You alone, not even myself, and allow Your love to flow through me unhindered and undistorted, to build up the Body of Christ for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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