Friday, February 29, 2008

Boasting or Hiding?

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...." Galatians 6:14 NIV

In New Testament times (and both before and after) a key sign that a Gentile man had become a Jew was that he was circumcised. A little piece of skin was cut off of one of the most sensitive parts of the body. It was an outward sign of inward covenant with God.

Some Jewish Christians believed that the old covenant with its laws and rituals were binding on all new Christians, Jewish or not, and were even boasting about the numbers of those who had been circumcised because of their witness. The reason for this emphasis was because the Jews in authority were persecuting new Christians. Circumcision was a way to avoid persecution because it showed commitment to the ways of Abraham and Moses.

Do you try to hide the fact that you're a Christian? I know I have. Here in North America persecution doesn't come in the form of physical torture, imprisonment or death. This isn't what we hope to avoid. Rather, we don't want to be thought judgemental, prudish or intolerant. We don't want to risk our jobs or our standing in the community. And so we simply say nothing and do nothing that would show that we are in anyway different. But we are!

Paul didn't want to boast about how many people had become believers in Jesus because of him. The only thing he wanted to boast about was the means by which people became believers--the cross and crucifixion of Christ. Circumcision was the means by which Gentiles became Jews. The difference between the two is that Jesus and his crucifixion has the power to change lives; circumcision or any other outward sign does not. And a changed life, a "new creation"--what's on the inside, not the outside--is what counts.

We can boast in the cross of Jesus because we know that through the cross, Jesus has the power to change us and others. So let's boast about that which is worth boasting about--the cross of Jesus--and stop hiding who we are.

Jesus, what is it in me that keeps me from boasting to others about what you can and have done? Why am I afraid? Why do I hide when the glorious truth about your power to change lives is so needed by those around me? Give me courage but, even more, help me to see things the way you see them so that my passion for you and for others will overshadow any fears I may have.

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