Do you ever wonder what people really see when they look at you?
What stands out?
Or maybe the better question is, what do you hope stands out? What do you hope others will see in you?
Are We Really Going to Talk About Circumcision?
I have been reading through Galatians this week. After reading through the first three chapters, I have to admit, I smugly thought to myself, "Well, maybe I will get more out of the last three chapters." I have read Galatians many times, and was anxious for the "good" stuff at the end.
But then my patient, loving, and long-suffering Lord cleared His throat at me (I mean, allegorically of course) and I began to wonder if maybe there was something deeper there for me after all.
So what are the first three chapters about? Circumcision.
Maybe you can understand why that one did not grab my heart. I mean, well, after all....I am a girl. It is just not something I struggle with as a personal issue.
But God, who wastes nothing, and is always saying more than we can ever understand, was not just addressing circumcision here. Circumcision was just the example to use to address an issue of the heart.
Paul is fussing at the people in Galatia because they started saying that in order to be saved and to be part of the church you had to be circumcised. And he didn't want them relying on their flesh at all.
Does that mean circumcision is a bad thing? I hope not, since God is the One who came up with the idea in the first place. I mean, I doubt Abraham, a 90 year old man, would have ever woken up and said, "Hey, I have a great idea!" No God thought it up. And Abraham had to have a lot of faith to believe God and follow through. Can't you just imagine the looks on all the men's faces as Abe explains what God told him they all needed to do?
But what was the point of circumcision? It was an outward sign of an inward relationship. It was visual proof. It set you apart. It served a purpose. It was a good thing.
So why was Paul against it? It was, after all, God's idea.
I really don't think Paul was against circumcision itself. He was against it being a benchmark for being a part of the church.
"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law
but through faith in Christ Jesus."
The early church was beginning to add more and more things onto the checklist for being a part of the church, circumcision just being one of them. And we can all be prone to coming up with our "checklist".
But the problem with a checklist is that it can be confusing. Because it is much easier to fix up the outside to look "right", at least according to the checklist, than worry about the inside. But it is easy to be fooled that if I or anyone else looks good and proper on the outside, then they (or I) must be fine on the inside too.
And this is where I realized that these passages pertained mightily to me. Because I have worried often about how I and my family are perceived. How are we seen? What do people think?
Who cares? Me, quite often. Unfortunately.
Jesus addresses those who worried about the outside instead of the inside with this sobering illustration:
"Woe to you...hypocrites!
For you are like whitewashed tombs which
on the outside appear beautiful,
but inside they are full of dead men's bones
and all uncleanness.
Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men,
but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Matthew 23:27, 28
Jesus just told the ones who were most stringently trying to follow the Law that they were FULL of lawlessness! Why? Because the Law wasn't designed to make anyone proud or haughty or unloving. But people can use it to find a list of "things" they need to do and things they need to not do. And then rest in how they look.
And avoid the relationship and the heart altogether.
Here's the Thing
And that was the problem with circumcision. It was a thing. A good thing. But....
The thing had become the focus.
The thing had become the proof.
The thing had become the god.
So, now the question is, what is my THING?
What do I rest on? What do I display as proof? What do others see when they see me?
Which brings me to my favorite Galatians verse:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
That is all I want others to see.
Not me. Not my standards. Not my clothes. Not my accomplishments. Not my failures. Not my works. Not my marriage. Not my homeschooling. Not my home. Not my church. Not my children.
Not MY anything.
All those things can just be a white-washed tombs. They can very effectively cover deadness inside.
But, if any or all of those things are an overflow of a life lived in the power, love, and grace of my Father, my Savior, my Lord....
then when others look at me they will see Jesus.
So maybe the first few chapters of Galatians had something very powerful for me after all.
What do others see when they see me?
What do they see when the see you?
What is your thing? What is mine?
May it always and forever be Jesus.