Slaying the Giant Within
The Christian life is not neat and clean. We could try to clean it up so that it looks less offensive to the world, but if we try to do so when end up sucking the guts right out of our very faith. No, the Christian life, and the Scriptures that shape it, is filled with blood and guts and gore. We try to shield our kids from those images in the media but there is no way to shield them from the blood and guts that are in God’s book. For example, consider today’s reading from Romans 2:29: No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Now you may be thinking that this verse is not so gory. If that is what you are thinking then you need to reread this verse without your 21 century, white-washed, Western eyes. Do you understand what Paul is referring to when he talks about circumcision? It is a bloody and gory procedure! Let me illustrate just how gory this procedure is. WARNING: This description is a bit graphic, so skip down a few paragraphs if you don’t want to read this graphic description.
My youngest son Taylor was born with a congenital heart defect. He was diagnosed with a heart murmur when he was born. Twenty-four hours after his birth, his mother was up, dressed and riding with me to the neonatal unit at a hospital about an hour away from our home. We learned that he had aortic stenosis, which meant that his aortic valve did not open all the way. The valve would open just a bit, allowing just a partial amount of blood to be passed from the heart to the aorta. The murmur was the sound of the blood flowing through the narrowed valve. It made a sound like water makes in a garden hose when you partially crimp the hose. Soon after he was born, he had a catheterization on his heart. At fifteen months of age he had open heart surgery. He is now five years old and is as healthy as a horse and as nimble as a cat.
When he was born, he was rushed to a different hospital and so he was not circumcised at birth. When he was two, we had him scheduled for a hernia repair and our doctor suggested that we go ahead and have him circumcised at that time. On the day of surgery, they fixed his hernia and circumcised him while he was under anesthesia. While we were with him in the recovery room, my wife went to change his diaper. With a note of concern in his voice, she called me over because she was shocked to see that the diaper was filled with blood. When she pulled the front part of the diaper back, I could see that the blood was coming from the spot of the circumcision. I got panicy and queasy all at the same time. Now I AM a man. I am strong and tough, but the sight of my son bleeding down there left me crumbling. I had to literally sit down because it was more than I can handle.
Most circumcisions are not so dramatic, but this story illustrates the point that you cannot overly sanitize this life that we are living as Christ-followers. It is difficult, hard, painful, uncomfortable, bloody and severe. Christians in the early church debated over whether or not Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised according to Jewish customs. In the end, the Apostle Paul said, “no.” In Romans 3, he explains that people are truly Jewish when they have had the circumcision of the heart. His comment is not meant to be disrespectful towards those who are ethnically Jewish. He said this is response to the question of Gentile Christians who were following Jesus, who was an ethic Jew. When Paul said, “A man is a Jew,” he is using the word “Jew” to refer to a lover of God. This circumcision of the heart is the circumcision of self. It is the death of self. I dealt with the subject in detail in my April 9th sermon entitled “Deconstructing Self.”
Self is a monster that wants to run the show. Either he will rule or God will rule. For the Christ-follower, only God can rule. When the kingdom of God clashes with the kingdom of self—there can only be one winner. When the kingdom of God comes to assault the kingdom of self – it does not hold back. The kingdom of God comes with a sword to slay self, but just as Jesus was risen from the dead, so our self can be risen in a subordinated form. This onslaught is ugly, but necessary. Here is my prayer for today: Lord, take your spiritual scalpel and go to work. Put to death my inner self and raise him up in new life to live in submission to you. In Jesus name. Amen