Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Marched Naked in the Street
“If at first you Do succeed, try something harder (Gookin).” -Ann Landers
“Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true (Gookin).” -John Keats
Have you ever tried to prove yourself to someone? We all want to be successful, don’t we? Maybe, like me, you went to school with a bunch of cool kids that all hung out together and seemed to have everything else together as well. They had the girlfriends, the talent, the looks; you know the type. These were the kids with the high GPAs, who played sports, and were on the debate team. You wanted to be like them. You wanted to have what they had and you wanted to do what they did.
Maybe you are completely secure and confident and are one of the cool kids and are saying, “Hey that’s me!” If so, great, but most likely you have still tried to prove yourself to someone at some point in your life. It might be that in your accomplishments are you trying to prove yourself to your parents, teachers, friends, or coaches. You might even be attempting to prove yourself to yourself. After all, you want to know that you have what it takes and that you are worthy of love, affection, and attention. We all want that. Do we deserve it though? Does anyone? Can we achieve love and acceptance?
The Hebrews, the Jews from the Old Testament, were identified as being God’s chosen people. You can’t be anymore successful than that. They were born into Judaism and through the mark of circumcision, were marked as God’s own. That’s right; the cutting off of the foreskin of the male penis was what marked one as a child of God. This was an initiation rite that was a sign that you were in, you had made it. If you were a child of Abraham, the father of all Jews, you were circumcised. That’s just how it was. See, this was the symbol that you were in the God Club. You were in the in crowd! You were then called to follow the law to the letter and not to sin so that you could stay in the God Club by being good. “But what about our non-circumcised brothers and what about the sisters?” you ask. I am with you. The non-circumcised were the Gentiles, or the non-Jews, and the women were the second class. The non-circumcised were not considered children of Abraham and they were not considered children of God.
In the early church, everyone was arguing about whether or not you had to be circumcised to be a follower of Christ. Circumcision was part of following the whole law, which was the old way to be in the God Club, or the in crowd. Jews and Gentiles were being converted to Christianity. The only problem with this is the fact that Gentiles were becoming followers of Christ and they had not been circumcised. The Jewish converts to Christianity wanted the Gentiles to adopt religious customs of following the law by being circumcised. The Jews were still trying to earn or achieve their place.
Circumcision has more to do with being Jewish than being Christian. The request of the Jews for the Gentiles to be circumcised was not a rational request. Paul wrote to the Colossian church to question why the Christians there were going backwards by acting so religious and Jewish when God had done something completely new in His Son, which took the burden off of them completely. God had invited everyone into the God Club without a cover charge. He had proclaimed, “Everyone is in!” Everyone! The Jew and the Gentile alike, all sinners, are in!
Paul says this best and gives this instruction to his readers, in Colossians 2: 11-15:
“Entering into this (God’s) fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets (Peterson).”
Jesus unraveled the shame of the cool, the un-cool, and the un-popular, all of us. He paraded our sin and shame, and all the expectations piled on us by ourselves, religion, and its leaders. God did this by taking our failures and inadequacies on Himself. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe (including our selves) of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets before everyone. We do not have to be ashamed and exposed for not keeping their heavy burdens. God exposed that we could not keep the law, He exposed our self righteousness and the self righteousness of the religious leaders, and He exposed the cool kids as not being so cool after all. His message is clear. Everyone who looks to Him and accepts what He has done for them is in the God Club. You do not have to do anything. You don’t have to be the coolest, the cleanest, the best dressed, or the most popular. You don’t need to have it all together. Your spiritual GPA does not matter. It does not matter if you play sports or get into the cool clubs with all the cool people. It does not matter what your extracurricular activities are, and Jesus doesn’t care what college you are going to, or all that you have done, or how much money you make. We just accept what He has done for us and we are in. Wow!
Exposed, shameless, and belonging, because of Christ bearing my sin and shame,
Gookin, John. Wilderness Wisdom. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2002.