The Apostle Paul writes, “You see, circumcision is of value only if you keep the law’s teaching. But if you keep breaking God’s rules, you are no different than those without the mark. So if an uncircumcised man abides by God’s just precepts, doesn’t that make his standing before God the same as one who is circumcised? The man who is physically uncircumcised but still keeps the law, he will stand in judgment over the person who is circumcised and yet continually breaks God’s law. A mark that is evident only in the flesh is not true. But the true Jew is Jewish on the inside – in secret places no one but God can see – and true circumcision involves the heart; it comes from the Spirit, not from some written code. The praise and reputation of that kind of Jew come from God, not from man” (Romans 2:25-29, The Voice).
The Voice commentators write, “When God’s people – or people who claim to be God’s people – are hypocrites, then God is the one who gets the bad name. How often do we say one thing and do another? How often have we set a standard for others only to break ourselves? The saying is true: we practice every day what we believe; all the rest is religious talk. There is a lot of religious talk out there, a lot of smugness and self-satisfaction. But every day people readily violate their consciences and the Lord’s reasonable teachings. For faith to matter, it has to get under your skin” (1439).
I wonder if we are reading the right letters to the wrong audience. We cannot expect people to live like they know God when they do not yet know him – especially when so many of those who do know God live like they don’t know him.
For example, I struggle with how the church ought to respond to homosexuality in our culture. Yes, God’s design for marriage is to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in a lifelong commitment. But we focus so much on the “one man and one woman” that we often neglect the “lifelong commitment” part. We then compromise more than just our position – but the very Personhood of Christ. Do we share the same fervency against all forms of sexual immorality (anything outside God’s created context for sex) or do we just attack those aspects we know little to nothing about (or that which we don’t struggle with)?
Here is my real concern, that we will win the culture war but the lose Christ’s mission. It is about being right in conviction or making others right with Christ? So what if we overturn the legalization of homosexual marriage? Will we win the hearts of those caught in such a dangerous and destructive lifestyle? Will we have any platform on which to be heard? Did Christ ever fight for a way of life or did he suffer that people might find the way to live?
Again, I am not saying either way whether it is good and pleasing for us to be politically active on social or moral issues. I am asking us to consider the means and the cost. These epistles were written to the church. Not to the culture. The church was called to righteousness. Then, and only then, would an Empire take notice.
I feel the tension more today than every before. As a parent. Aa a pastor. I don’t want my children exposed to the lies of the enemy. But I also know that I am responsible to equip them with discernment. I can not protect That they must learn how to be a light in a very dark place.
Lots of questions. Lots of opportunity. May your faith get under your skin.