In the brand new church that emerged immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus, early Christians debated whether the old covenant of circumcision was still necessary in order for those in The Way to be accepted by God. When Timothy was left to work with the Roman church, many Christians demanded he be circumcised because of his Greek/Gentile father. In Romans 14, Paul encouraged Timothy to, and the latter agreed to, go under the knife to avoid offending those who had issue with him.
An important point not to miss is this: Paul and Timothy were, in fact, right. Timothy didn’t need to be circumcised. The duo could have spent their time trying to educate the weaker Christians on the freedom Timothy had in Christ. They could have created Sunday school classes or written letters or protested the ignorance of their brothers, or in some other way tried to change the mindset of the other side so they would see things the right way.
Instead, Timothy underwent, as a grown man, excruciating pain – and this prior to modern medicine – in order remove any wall that would stand between him and another. I don’t know of any other act in the New Testament that so closely follows the sacrificial mindset and heart of the Christ who died for us than Timothy’s sacrifice of his wants, desires, and own body for the sake of another.
Granted, this passage is about doctrine and not about the secular arena, but I think Christians would do well to heed the principle in many areas. (Those areas don’t include the gospel, on which Christians should never compromise, even if it offends others.) What if Christians, who have absolute right to honor the past, spent less time trying to convince others history is misunderstood/the minority is wrong to be offended/we have rights too, and instead offered, “”What can I do to show you I love you? Go under the knife? Tear down a statue? Gouge out my eye? Whatever it takes, I will do, as long as you know it’s the love of Christ that compels me. You are worth it, in God’s eyes and in mine.”
Some people have voiced concerns about the precedent it will set to go give in to others making self-serving demands. Those people would do well to remember that Jesus said, “If a man asks for your cloak (or shirt), give him your coat, too.” It doesn’t matter that the person asking is wrong to ask, or that it’s selfish of him to put his needs/feelings/desires above your own. Give him what he asks, our Master says. Anything less is participation in the same selfishness governing the world and ruins our witness.
It will ruin our country, you say, to set the precedent that everyone has the right to go through life without being offended. Maybe so. But this is where our faith collides with our life. Do we, in fact, as the Church, believe Jesus when He said, “… the greatest of these is love”? Not educating the other side, not freedom, not country or self, but love. Christians should be the first to stand up and say, “Everything, every fiber of my being, as well as logic and a sound mind, reason, even history and experience tell me that if I give in to this group, it will be the ruination of our precious country. Everything that I see tells me so. But (the all-important caveat that frequently signals faith) God, I believe what you said. I believe if I obey, you will take care of everything else. I trust You enough to do what you said: love.”
What does it say about us Christians that a flag, statue, or piece of cloth is more important to us than our brothers and sisters, fellow humanity? No institution, no history, no mindset, opinion, right, nation, or feeling, is more important to our Lord than our fellow man, and if we are to be like Him, we better start here.
We have an incredible opportunity to show the self-deprecating love of Christ, or we can insist that we’re right. Better that I burn a cherished flag or relegate a million-dollar statue to rubble than some precious soul spend eternity in hell because he or she couldn’t see beyond my rights, my pride to the cross of Christ, where true reconciliation lies.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.