When I first read today’s lesson, I was thinking what on earth could I possibly write about being circumcised that is applicable to modern day thinking on the subject. In our culture, it is usually a decision made for male infants by their parents within a few days of birth and relates more to health benefits than having any sort of religious significance. Also, most men these days wear pants so it is not very likely that a person could readily know whether or not someone were circumcised in any case. The idea that “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” came across to me as a mild form of bigotry (albeit one that would be quite difficult to verify, and seems to eliminate women from the equation altogether). Reading further, fortunately the debate ends with the understanding that “we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” and it made me wonder if the church elders of the time might have had to come up with some sort of new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for circumcision.
There is a natural tendency to analyze, categorize, and generalize about people’s behavior and thinking that differentiates their ideas from our own: circumcised vs. uncircumcised, clean vs. unclean, conservatives vs. liberals, nerds vs. jocks, believers vs. non-believers, vegetarians vs. carnivores, Democrats vs. Republicans, sinners vs. saints, nuts vs. bolts, etc. It simplifies things quite a bit when there are just two kinds of people: those who think there are two kinds of people and those who do not think there are two kinds of people. Such over-simplification and stereotyping is commonplace, but does very little to improve the prospect for salvation; and it may well, in fact, detract from it. It makes me think that all general statements are false - generally speaking.
If only life were so clear-cut that by adhering to the right set of rituals and practices one could be saved. By example, Christ reached out to the entire spectrum of humanity including tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, and countless other unlikely candidates to consistently demonstrate His unconditional love for us. I think if Jesus had only associated himself with like-minded circumcised carpenters, no one would ever have believed that he was the son of God.