Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
When Mary Ann and I started dating, I’d always try to keep her guessing about where we were going by taking different routes. I’d go through different neighborhoods, going down different streets, just to keep it interesting and fresh.
I like exploring, trying out different routes. Going down streets I’ve never traveled before. But there are some destinations that there is only one way to go. Only one road. No options. No alternative routes.
While on a trip to the great national parks in Utah, we decided to take a side trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We’d been to the south rim many times when we lived in Arizona, but never ventured to the north rim.
Now the Grand Canyon is the grandest canyon of them all. Period. Close to 5 million visitors visit the Grand Canyon every year because of its breathtaking grandeur and beauty. It never disappoints.
We visited the south rim many times when we lived in Arizona. It was easy to find, the roads and turns were well marked with great big signs. All you had to do was follow the flow of traffic.
There were plenty of facilities and park rangers on the south rim to help. The trails were clearly marked and made safe for city people like me. You always would find crowds at the different lookout sites. Every ethnic group was there. You could always hear multiple languages as they stared in wonder at the canyon.
But the north rim was an entirely different experience. It only gets about 10% of the visitors. There are very few people and even fewer park rangers. There was only one snack bar and we had to look long and hard for a rest room.
The trails on the north rim are not well marked. To be perfectly honest, they’re not all that safe either. There were several spots that I could have easily fallen into the canyon only to be torn apart and eaten by wild coyotes.
What’s the difference? Why does the south rim get 90% of the people and most of the resources? I’ll tell you why. There’s only one road leading in and out of the north rim. There’s nothing near the north rim either. No city. No town. No attractions.
When it comes to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, there’s only one way to get there. And when it comes to getting back to God, there’s also only one way. And that way isn’t following rules.
The Galatian church had been flooded with people saying they had to follow the Old Testament rules. They had to obey the laws of Moses. And that started with circumcision.
But there was another reason that they were forcing the Galatians to follow all the requirements of Moses. By putting all the focus on the Galatians and their not following the laws, it took the attention off the fact that they weren’t following them either.
It’s the same way today. Whenever someone keeps yelling and screaming for people to obey any set of rules, it takes attention off the fact that they can’t follow them either.
You see, laws are simple. You’re either doing them or you’re not. You obey them or you disobey them. It’s either or. There’s no middle ground. You either have 100% or 0% obedience.
One thing about rules, you follow them or not. And once you break one of them, that’s it. You’re a lawbreaker and the only thing you’re entitled to is the clenched fist of the law.
The other thing about rules is that there is no love. They are black or white. There is no compassion. No grace. No loving embrace. There’s nothing in the laws that can make you right again.
To cover up their own failure in fulfilling all the requirements of the Mosaic law, they forced the laws to say things that God never intended. In their act of forcing circumcision on the Gentiles, they would cover themselves with glory in the eyes of their Jewish brethren, and demonstrate to them how zealous they were of the law after all.
That’s why Paul takes any trust he used to have in rules and throws them in the garbage. He clearly understands that any self-effort that he used to trust to be reunited with God was hopeless and powerless.
Now, he puts his full trust in the cross of Christ. He puts to death any and all pride he once had in his own intellect, power, obedience, and spirituality. And he knows that Jesus is worthy of his trust because he rose from the grave.
This is exactly the same place we have to come to. There’s a fork in the road when it comes to being reunited with God. One path is where it’s all about us and our obedience. The narrow path is where we let God take care of our sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
When it comes to getting back to God through our works, you just can’t get there from here. But there is a road that God has made for us to come back to him. And Jesus is that road.
Come back. Come home.