Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
Ouch! Paul is getting pretty would up by this point. His own journey from being enslaved by the Mosaic Law (Torah) to breathing the fresh air of the Spirit of Christ, was such a momentous experience that the last thing he want is for the fledgling friends of Jesus in Galatia URC to go backwards way. Clearly someone in the congregation was wanting them to revert to life in confinement. Paul says….”No No No. Don’t go back to those dark places where observing the intricacies of the Law ruled your actions and words. Keep calm and trust the Spirit of Christ.” Circumcision was the big debating point. But Paul says : “Move on. Insisting on circumcision will “cut you off” from Christ. (This is a “cutting” remark!) But Paul is in full flow. “Choose the Spirit’s path. There is only one way to enjoy being a friend of Jesus: ‘faith working through love’. “
Paul believes that faith is “made effective” by love. Paul had made discoveries about the Christian life which we can all embrace even though we may not have shared his dramatic journey slavery to freedom, from Saul to Paul, from Law to Love.. Yes… the greatest of these is Love. Trust it. When it hard to love, trust it. When the world prefers violence, trust it. When pain is all around, trust it. When you have runout of all options, trust it.
We thank you God, for the power of love which melts bitterness and hatred; for the patience of love which outlasts prejudice and dogmatism; for the courage to love which transforms impossible situations; for the freedom to love which opens doors in decision-making; for the persona of Love who is Jesus Christ source, guide and goal of our journey. Amen.
The Rev’d David Jenkins is a retired minister at Marple, Cheshire.