When God established the covenant with Abraham, one of the conditions was that all men would be circumcised - the physical marking of a faithful Jew. Under the new covenant with Christ, God still requires circumcision. It is no longer the physical marking of a faithful Jew; rather, it is the spiritual marking of the faithful. Period.
A group of us were talking about this idea recently, this "circumcision of the heart" or spiritual circumcision mentioned in the New Testament. What does it even mean? Everyone seemed to have his own interpretation about what this means, how it comes about, how it's manifested in the life of the faithful. And as usually happens, I said something without thinking...and I can't stop thinking about it.
Throughout this discussion, I was trying to figure out along with everyone else what this even means. Circumcision of the heart? Maybe it's the cutting away of the unnecessary. Maybe it's a cosmetic move, something designed to clean up the appearance of the man somehow. The more I rolled the idea around in my head, the more I went back to the physical circumcision. And from there, I think I began to understand what this idea is all about.
The physical circumcision is the cutting away of the foreskin, a piece of flesh that covers the end of the distinctly male anatomy. One might make the argument, although there would be holes in it, that it is this anatomy that makes a man, well, a man. (As opposed to his other options, I suppose.) The circumcision of the heart, then, I think must be much the same. It must be the cutting away of the flesh that covers the distinctly human anatomy - the heart.
And there's plenty of flesh on my heart. I don't know about you, but I'll speak for me - there's plenty of flesh there. There's flesh that demands so much from this world without thinking about what it can offer. There's flesh that wants what it wants, and it wants it now. There's flesh that doesn't have patience of time. There's flesh that curses and condemns. There's flesh that worries and wanders. There's flesh that sins and struggles. There's flesh that looks at the fruit of the tree and thinks, you know what? I am a little hungry right now.
There's flesh that's always trying to get in the way of the very pure and beautiful things God has put in this heart - things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There's flesh that tries to stand in the way of faith. There's flesh that doesn't understand that its place in this life is not to cover and protect the heart that God has given me, but to give that heart some hands and feet to live out love in this place. It's the heart that makes man, well, man, in the divine image of God.
And I think that's what these New Testament writers are trying to get at. Under the old covenant, men were willing, even eager, to cut away their flesh. Under the new covenant, we must be just as willing, just as eager, to do the same. It's the mark of the faithful - an exposed heart. It's how we know that we're God's people.
So let me ask you a somewhat personal question - have you been circumcised? Are you living with your heart exposed, ready and able and willing, even eager, to live out the very pure and beautiful things God has put in your heart? The things that make you distinctly human? The things that make you distinctly His?