Friday, March 15, 2013
Jesus is Branded on My Body
Gal. 6:11 ¶ See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!
Gal. 6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Gal. 6:13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.
Gal. 6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Gal. 6:15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!
Gal. 6:16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Gal. 6:17 ¶ From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.
Gal. 6:18 ¶ May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Galatians with these concluding remarks which are quite telling. Here in this final section he makes a contrast between two types of physical or fleshly marks of being a follower of God. The first is circumcision and here he brings criticism. The concern over criticism is not a genuinely spiritual concern, but instead it is the concern over appearances. There is a desire that followers of Jesus Christ follow the legalism of the law by a form of outward appearance. Sadly, it's easy to boast about doing these types of things. "Look what I've done for Christ!" Even today there are those who are judging people on the outward signs of their faith. What do they wear to church? What kinds of piercings do they have? What about all those tattoos? And the list goes on as we judge on outward appearance.
Paul says that none of these things are signs of a person's spirituality. Looking the "look" as a Christian doesn't make you spiritual, taking up the cross of Jesus Christ is what leads you to the spiritual life. There is nothing pleasant nor attractive about the cross of Jesus. However, the cross is the entrance into new kingdom where Jesus invites us to come and participate with him in his activity in the world.
Finally Paul makes just a slight reference to the marks of Jesus which are branded on his body. These are the physical marks of the new kingdom and they have nothing to do with circumcision. They are the scars which he bears for taking the message of the new kingdom into all the world. They are the result of kingdom living and they are not always outward signs, but they are signs in the flesh non-the-less of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Instead of purposeful personal adornment of the flesh, his body has become a physical testimony and literally he is branded as belonging to Jesus Christ.
This begs the question about our willingness to serve Jesus in the kingdom. Are we seeking the approval of the world around us? If so then we will adopt the outward appearance of Christianity. What does that look like? It would certainly depend on our cultural context for each culture probably has a particular way in which they view Christians. However, there is a tendency to gravitate toward what we may see as being "acceptable" as a Christian. What Paul suggests here is not all that pleasant. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we are not always liked; people are not always comfortable with the things that we say and do. Paul was beaten, stoned, spit upon and thrown in prison -- just to name a few. And these were the marks of Christ that he bore in his flesh. His scars were not because he wanted people to think he was holy, they were a result of his holiness. And that's the whole point. If we are going to be branded with Jesus Christ it ought to be the result of our lives, not because we think it looks cool! A disciple who takes up their cross is committing themselves to the long-haul; a life-long commitment to following Jesus and an understanding that their body may take on the brand of Christ as a result of pain and suffering. It's not near as cute as the WWJD bracelets of the past, or wearing a Christian T-shirt but those require no sacrifice. The true brand of a Christian is found in a life of sacrifice, commitment and identification with the Jesus of the cross. Is that the kind of brand we are willing to carry with us on a daily basis?
Jesus, this kind of commitment is scary, but my desire is to serve you in faithfulness in all things. Please, lead me today. Amen.