Sadly, this is not a reality TV post. It's about Galatians 6:14, in keeping with my month-long commitment to blog about a verse a day. Here it is:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.This is a verse that has always left me muddle-brained. What exactly does it mean to boast in the cross of Christ? To boast about something would seem to mean that I am proud of it, and that just doesn't seem appropriate. Can I be proud of what Jesus did for us? Not really. I'm grateful for what He did, but actually horrified at what had to happen to Him and that He had to do it at all. Can I be proud to be a Christian? Yes, but that's not appropriate either. My salvation is a gift and has nothing to do with anything I accomplished in the least. In the absence of any more cogent idea, I have always glossed over this verse figuring Paul meant he had no interest in himself or his old worldly status, but only in his new status as a believer in Jesus.
Well, I was given a better answer today by our CBS teaching leader, Jan Henderson, who is absolutely, completely amazing. Let me see if I can do her thoughts justice.
She began by pointing out that chapter 6 of Galatians is no bunny trail from the rest of the letter. He does not end this letter with practical tips for Christian living, as he does in some others. He is still laser-focused on the problem of the Galatian church being threatened by Judaizers who want to pull some of the new believers into adherence to the Jewish law as a part of their new-found faith in Christ. These are Gentiles, pagans, who had no history or foundation in the law, no preconceived notions that God demanded certain rituals or that certain ceremonies be followed in order to gain acceptance. But the Jewish believers wanted to have them believe that in addition to faith in Christ, these believers also needed to be circumcised to be accepted by God.
Jan discussed their probable false motives. One false motive would have been to avoid persecution themselves. As it happened, the Roman government allowed Judaism, but no other new religion to be practiced other than paganism. So to force the new believers to be circumcised would have been easier, I suppose. And while there is no law against circumcision, Paul is adamant that the new converts not believe that circumcision or any other ritual gains them acceptance before God, that their salvation is only through the death of Christ.
Here comes the good part, the part that has always gone over my head before: when Paul speaks of boasting in the cross of Christ, he is not referring to the historical event of Jesus' crucifixion. He is speaking of the spiritual event of his own crucifixion with Christ, the daily separating of light from darkness, flesh from righteousness, good from evil. He is encouraging them to walk in the Spirit, to allow the Spirit to do His work in their hearts, to continue to cut away the old man, the flesh. Paul says our lives are to be marked by an internal circumcision, one of the spirit, not the one of the flesh. He is encouraging them to stay connected to the Head, to manifest the will of the Head, by daily participating in the crucifixion of Christ in their own hearts. Then they will know peace. Then they are the true Israel of God.
And now I understand more. In regard to my pitching and moaning about not understanding the law of the Old Testament versus the difficult strictures of living in a manner pleasing to God, how they differed from one another -- yesterday I understood that that was at least partly a smokescreen. I was unwilling to abide in the Word and thereby live in the Spirit. But this morning I understand more. That the pain of those difficult strictures, the agony I was resisting was my flesh dying. It didn't feel good, it wasn't joyful, and so I determined that I was misunderstanding something about this supposedly joyful Christian life. But what I was experiencing was exactly right; it was the daily cutting away of the old man, the internal circumcision of the heart that allowed me to stay connected to the Head.
So when Paul says he boasts of the cross of Christ, I think he means that it is by this daily, personal participation in Jesus' death that is a sign of his salvation, not the external sign of fleshly circumcision. He is saying to the Galatians (and to us), do not fall back into outward signs and ceremonies and rituals as an assurance of your standing before God. Stay connected to the Head through the cross as it has its daily work in your heart. That is your assurance.