When I was growing up, you became attached to teams based on where you live. Then free agency exploded. Then cable TV came into existence. People started following specific players or they followed teams from far off because their cable system carried their games. As the broadcasting of sports has exploded we now see fans that have decided that they can be free agents too, and they will support whatever team happens to be winning in their favorite sport. OId timers like me call them “Band Wagonneers.” Sure, they wear the jersey and the cap. They may even paint their face and go to the games. But they don’t love the team with all their hearts.
Paul and the early church struggled with a major issue back then. Many in the early church thought that in order to follow Christ, one must be Jewish. While they rejoiced that Gentiles were turning to Christ and received the Holy Spirit, they wanted these Gentiles to follow the law and become Jews. They had to fully commit to becoming Jews by undergoing circumcision. (No, I’m not going to explain it if you don’t know what it means. Check out a YouTube video if you dare.) Paul argued against this and focused on the change of heart that followers of Christ had. “No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:29)
Using the fan analogy, one didn’t become a Jew by wearing the hat and the jersey. One became a Jew by a change in heart that was so drastic that it was like open heart surgery had taken off all the junk in a person’s life. As Paul talked to those who claimed to be the chosen people of God because they were Jews, he made a startling claim. He said, in effect, “If all you have to show for your claim that you are one of God’s chosen people is your circumcision, you have missed the boat. God isn’t worried about a physical operation, He is looking for a spiritual operation that shows a changed heart.” The Church today still struggles with this concept of works over a changed heart; of works over grace. We pick out certain sins and cry out, “Repent! Stop sinning!” forgetting that if a person heeds our words and stops sinning, that doesn’t necessarily make them right with God. They still need His grace. (One of the reasons I don’t usually talk about specific sins here – unless they are my own.) Let’s look at an impossible hypothetical and imagine a person who has given up all their sins. Does that make them one of the chosen people? Does that make them right with God? The answer is “No” because until one has received the grace of God and developed a restored relationship with Him, he or she is not right with God.
And so our call to the sinners of this world, and I include myself in that group, each day must be to grace. Whatever your sin may be, it is not so great as to be unforgivable. Is repentance necessary? Of course. But if people repent to please me, it won’t work. My job is to bring people to God so that He can convince them of His grace and forgiveness. As He wants them to repent, He will work in them to be conformed to His image. The Christian Church does not need “Band Wagoneers” who know the right words and do the right things. The Christian Church needs to be filled with sinners who have received Jesus as their Savior and have had their hearts circumcised.
Oh Lord God, I am weak and flawed. Yet You sought me out and circumcised my heart. You have given me Your grace. You have restored our relationship. Thank You. Help me to show others the joy of a restored relationship with You.