Circumcision of the Heart

Scalpel by tudedude
Scalpel, a photo by tudedude on Flickr.

What is circumcision, anyway?

In a basic sense, it is the removal of extraneous flesh, usually done for religious or aesthetic reasons. It was also a sign for the Jews of their being people of the covenant. It was not optional.

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:25-29)

Paul speaks of a new circumcision: a circumcision of the heart. But how are we to understand this?

Certainly, this new circumcision marks us as having entered into the new covenant. At our baptism, our souls were indelibly marked. God’s laws were inscribed on our heart. Is this what is meant? In part, perhaps.

But I think it goes further than that.

Physical circumcision is an active event. God doesn’t do it. You do it, or have it done for your child.

So, too, I think the circumcision of the heart is an active event. It’s not merely an awareness of the indwelling of the Spirit, but it is a choice that we make every day to be a disciple of Christ.

Every day, we need to take again our spiritual scapel and cut away from our heart (our will, right?) all of those things which are not of God…the “extraneous bits.”

And this, too, is not optional.

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