People willingly accept traditions – until they find out they may have to change their old habits. We are also more than willing to have others follow the traditions we have approved. Persons in the church sometimes try to force others to accept particular traditions. In Galatia, a group of law-observant Jews are pressing the Gentiles to be circumcised, a Jewish rite. And yet for Paul that physical distinction has no bearing on the Gentiles’ acceptance of Christ through Paul’s law-free preaching. The Jews are merely demanding the the Galatians jump through another set of religious hoops, thereby giving the Jews something to boast about. Circumcised Gentiles become a trophy of the Jews’ success.
Paul will only boast about the cross of Jesus. The cross – not any tradition – frees him from the need to please others, frees him from the world’s and the church’s expectations. The world has lost its attraction for Paul; the glamour and appeal of his former life is now fading.
The important aspect for Paul and for us hinges on God’s action: God is making us new without regard for circumcision or uncircumcision, transforming us from who we are to who God envisions us to be. Being “new” is not just an improvement on the old; it is becoming someone entirely different. Rules of division fall by the wayside; peace and mercy are ours as we begin to own everything that is part of the new creation and put aside everything that is not.
Dear God, deliver me from those traditions that keep me from a new life in Christ. Amen.