Isaiah 19:1-21:17; Galatians 2:1-16; Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 23:13-14
Little Decisions, Big Consequences
Rarely do we know the full consequences of our decisions. We don’t get a reset button that would allow us to play it again and see how things might have been different, like Bill Murray’s character in the movie, “Groundhog Day.” But sometimes hindsight allows us to take a good guess.
In retrospect, one of the most important decisions made by the early church was on the question of circumcision, and Paul emphasized it again in today’s lesson from Galatians. Should those non-Jews who came to faith in Jesus be circumcised or not? At issue was the much larger question, “Is following Jesus a subset of Judaism, or a new way to be reconciled to God that does not require Jewish observance?” Does one, in essence, have to go through Judaism to get to Jesus?
Had the answer been in the affirmative, we might be worshiping on Saturday and celebrating Hanukkah and Yom Kippur. On the surface of it, that might not be a bad thing. However, along with that would have come the whole Jewish law and the burden to keep the law in order to be accepted by God. That would have nullified Jesus’ death on the cross and, I suspect, the church would have simply been re-absorbed into Judaism within a couple of generations.
But, thanks to the efforts of Paul (and, no doubt, some others), Jesus’ death on the cross remained the central and defining element of Christian faith and devotion.
The Rev. Eric Turner