4 You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
The irony of Paul's own life, prior to his conversion and commissioning by Jesus, is that he (with other Pharisees) had come to believe that the Mosaic law code was the superlative revelation of God's will for the world. As a result he arrived at a place in his faith journey where the Mosaic law (itself deeply suspicious and critical of all forms of idolatry) had become an idol. That is to say, Paul and other pharisees had come to place their faith, their hope, their trust in methods for fulfilling even the most rigorous aspects of the Mosaic law. They put their hope in achieving righteousness by merit through discipline and sacrifice.
Still others put their hope in gaining righteousness as an ethnic birthright through the outward sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision).
As satisfying as it is to cluck our tongues and shake our heads at the foolishness of "those guys, over there" I am reminded today that our own tradition tempts us to worship similar idols. How are we, as Lutheran followers of Jesus putting our hope in false idols as opposed to in the name of the Living God Alone? At times, it seems to me that Lutherans are especially tempted to such errors because of the amount of pride and identity we have invested in having "good theology". And so, we come to the logical end of idolatry - violence towards ourselves, towards God, and towards the other.
What if, just for today, as a little experiment, I tried to really
yield to the wisdom of God as interpreted in Galatians:
"the only thing that counts is faith working through love."?
What if today, we all decided to talk a little less about our
faith and participate in it more fully.
How might that manifest in You life?
Our Father, Who Art In Heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come! Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Amen.