“Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all!” Galatians 5:2
Have you ever being told to do things because “it was the law?” or “this is what we do?” But never understood the reason for doing so? I am reminded of a story about a wife, whose husband asked her why she cut part of the turkey before baking it. Her response was, “that’s the way mom did it.” She decided to call her mom, and her mom told her the same thing, “thats how mom did it.” Luckily, great-grand mom was alive and when they asked her, she told them that it was because the turkey was too big for the pot she used for the oven. It’s an interesting story, how we take to traditions, even when circumstances have changed. The writer of Galatians 5, Paul the Apostle, is making it very clear that circumcision is like the woman cutting off the end of the turkey, when the times didn’t call for it. That is, even though circumcision was a pledge to live by the rule of Law, Christ came so that we should have relationship with him and not with the law.
When we lack understanding of what we do, we simply build up yokes between us and Christ. Yokes are no good because they put a strain on the relationship we have with Christ. For that reason alone, Paul is warning us, “…if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all.” The yoke in this verse refers to the Law. When Paul talks about circumcision, it was a tradition that was done by every Jewish boy. Acts 15:10 says it this way, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Being tied up to the Law makes us a bit like a robot. We do not have to use our god-given ability to make choices because the law tells us what we say, what we wear, and what we do. Does that sound familiar?
I have spent a better part of my teenage and young adult life as a Pentecostal Apostolic. Since the day I was baptized, I felt as if I had to put on a yoke of religion. The women wore hats, no pants, no jewelry, and attended church 2 to 3 times a week. No, this wasn’t normal, but when you started building relationships with the people, you’d be surprised to see how natural it was to follow the rules. You stop questioning your every thought about what you like, and replace them with what is expected. You go shopping and have to ask yourselves, what would sister so and so think when I buy this sleeve-less dress? It was a subtle way of conforming sinners to saints. But, it lasted as long as the relationships you developed lasted. In other words, once you have broken ties because of circumstances like university, or travelling or moving to a new city, those same unanswered questions begin to pop up again. Do you do the same things, even when circumstances change?
See Part II: For Freedom, He died
Robots do not think, but people do. Thoughts lead to choices, choices lead to decisions. We get to make decisions as humans because we are free. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Therefore, since we have been set free, Paul feels that it is important that we do not become circumcised again. Why? Christ will not be of any benefit, Paul says. My thought is that, since the Law tells us what to do, we have no need to come to God in prayer. One thing we could bring to God in prayer for instance would be the clothes we wear. Instead of listening to what a religious sect tells us; do this, and do not do that, we would be able to exercise our freedom in Christ. We can ask him what to wear [This is a basic example about clothing, but it goes for any part of our lives that concerns us]. Christ who thrives in relationship, would be all too happy to share in this aspect of our lives, and together come up with something that is both appropriate and uniquely us. This is what He does with us, if we let him, if we let go off the yokes that burdens us, and allow for relationship with the one who gives freedom.