Romans 2:25-29 (NKJV)

For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Circumcision is an irreversible surgical mark of a covenant. Jewish men could no more deny their heritage than they could deny their humanity. That sounds like a good thing and certainly fits the covenant concept beautifully.

But sin has a way of wrecking everything, and this is no exception. They turned circumcision from a sign of a holy covenant into a sign of privilege. Instead of a sign of the covenant, they saw it as a guarantee of one. Why bother to do all those things when you have the mark of the covenant?

That’s pride at work, and it’s the quintessential human flaw. Our hearts have a way of gaming everything. We’re experts at making excuses. We think, “I’m one of the good guys so I don’t need to worry about that.” Rules are for others.

This all has a, “The dog ate my copy of the law,” feel to it. It’d be funny if it wasn’t such a horror show. Privilege offends people and privilege in the name of God dishonors Him. Witnessing for Christ is trashed by a condescending sense of privilege.

For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” — Romans 2:24a (NKJV)

That’s why repentance is so important and why repentance must not be a one-time event. It’s so essential to the structure of Christianity that Martin Luther made it the first of his 95 theses.

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

This “rules are for others” syndrome is usually not so blatant that we notice it in ourselves. So, countering it is tricky. Just trying to do better at obeying the rules gets into legalism and hypocrisy real quick.

The best approach isn’t to try harder to sin less; it’s repentance. The key isn’t even stopping the sins; it’s seeing them.

But you can’t teach yourself to see; only the Holy Spirit can do that.

“Lord help me see my sinfulness and my sense of privilege about it.”

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.