Galatians / chapter 5 (read the chapter)
It seems the Galatians were having second thoughts about accepting salvation based on faith. Something (or someone) had convinced them that unless they were circumcised, God wouldn’t accept them.
Paul had a few things to say about that: “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (vs 2-6)
As I read this, I started thinking about all the things we still do to “make ourselves acceptable” to God. Maybe we try to keep the law. Or maybe we try not to keep the law. Or maybe we attend mass every week. Or maybe we keep a running list in our minds of all the “good deeds” we’ve done this month.
Truthfully, I’m not sure we’re much further along than the Galatians were. If what we do or don’t do holds any significant place in our mind as it relates to God’s acceptance of us, then we have also fallen away from grace.
For it really wasn’t the circumcision that was the issue. Did you catch that in what Paul said? He didn’t say that it was a problem to be circumcised. He said, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.” Thus, if the Galatians were going to be circumcised in order to be saved, that was wrong. And if they were going to remain uncircumcised in order to be saved, that was also wrong!
The issue really wasn’t about circumcision at all, but about fear. The reason the Galatians had begun to contemplate getting circumcised was because they were suddenly afraid that if they did not do that, God would not accept them. That’s why Paul said that if they let themselves be circumcised, Christ would “be of no value” to them at all. If they took measures out of fear in order to “get saved,” they would be acting contrary to faith in Christ.
In the same way, if they read Paul’s letter and decided, out of fear, to remain uncircumcised so that God would accept them, they would also be acting contrary to faith in Christ! Because to have faith in Christ means that we totally take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on Him. When we do that, we discover that He is gracious, trustworthy, and wildly welcoming and accepting.
Just as the Prodigal Son discovered when he returned home, we don’t have to do a single thing to get God to accept us.
Not a single thing.
I mean it.
God doesn’t want you to approach Him in fear. He’s not a person to be afraid of. He’s a person to be a friend of. And the more we try to do or not do things to garner acceptance with Him, the longer we will be acting contrary to faith in Christ.
God wants you to trust Him. He wants you to believe Him, even when He says, “I love you as you are.”
And you can. He always tells the truth.