Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.
Here is Timothy – and he is a disciple. Tick. He is the son of a Jewish woman, who is a believer. Tick. He is highly regarded by the believers both locally and further afield. Tick. But there is a terrible fly in the otherwise pleasant ointment… the text says ‘…but his father was a Greek’. Oh no! (Sharp intake of horrified breath!) The ‘but’ indicates that this is a problem.
But fret not… here comes a solution. Paul has Timothy circumcised ‘because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek’.
I want to ask, ‘So what?’
Timothy, in himself, was fine – but he had to be subjected to a physical procedure to prove that he was ‘ok’. He was, after all, ‘like us.’ Furthermore, the procedure must have been either public or publicised, otherwise how would the people have known in order to feel reassured?
I wonder… do we read this story without feeling in some way shocked or vexed at what we are being told? In what world does this make sense?
In what way did circumcising Timothy’s flesh impact his heart, his mind, his spirit – his faith, his intellect, his ability to be a disciple?
I wonder about the hoops we still ask people to jump through to (doubly and triply) prove their worth… the people who can’t just be themselves… the people who still need to fret about what ‘the church’ or society might know or think about them… the people we ask to conform, and even assimilate, to be deemed acceptable? And ‘acceptable’ in whose eyes?
I truly believe that God made humankind in all our rich diversity. I am still on a journey to fully discover what that means. But my heart tells me that we are different because we are meant to be different. So, when will we stop insisting that other people need to look, dress, act, think, feel or believe like us in order to be ok in the eyes of our one Creator, God?
In God’s Image (Extracted)
I am a child of God – As you are. In my face is reflected the likeness of God – As in yours.
Why then do you despise the colour of my skin?
Why do you think that I must think Like you, Act Like you, Speak or believe Like you?
Why do I need your approval To be me – The ‘me’ our Parent God Birthed me to be! –
When I am made in the image of God In whose image We both are made. Amen
Karen Campbell, Secretary for Global & Intercultural Ministries