See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV)
The apostle Paul tells us that in and of ourselves we have nothing to brag about, unless we are pointing ourselves and others to the Cross.
Paul was arguing against the insistence of Jewish people who became Christians that non-Jewish converts to Christianity should take on the Jewish rites such as circumcision. It would make them feel better in a way to be able to say, “We got all these new converts! They went through all our hoops! Yay for us!” The thing is, though, Jesus’ command for us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) was never about us getting numbers, never about us getting results.
Sometimes it’s easy for one person or for a small church or community to get discouraged because we don’t always see the numbers or the results of our work. It’s hard to stay encouraged in our vocations when we fail, when we don’t get positive feedback, or when we feel like everything we do is in vain.
The whole point of Jesus’ command to make disciples is for us to do what He says- in faith that the Holy Spirit will bring the results. We have no way of knowing whether or not something we say or share might be used by the Holy Spirit years from now to encourage or transform someone else. If we are going to point to anyone, or we are going to brag on anyone, we have to brag on Jesus.
The Christian faith doesn’t promise us a crown of glory, or lots of stuff or perfect health. It doesn’t promise us even a “perfect” church in which everyone follows every rule just perfectly and loves each other without ever causing offense. The church is a community of imperfect people- sinners and saints- all trusting in the grace and mercy of God.
Jesus Himself tells us: And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)
In this life we are promised we will share in the sufferings of Jesus, but we are also promised that Jesus is growing our faith in Him now, and preparing us a place in the kingdom that is yet to be fulfilled. In Christ we are new creations.