I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully. I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy. I ask for the grace to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance. I ask to know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.
11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.
1) "...may I never boast of anything except the cross;" "...the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world;" "...a new creation is everything;" "...I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body;" "...May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters;" "...a new creation is everything;" "...new creation is everything."
2) I simply love the playfulness of the first line! See!!! This really is a letter of extremes, from very severe admonishment to incredible affection and familiarity. It is a mistake to read this letter as if it were written for us, or for a "public" audience. It is uniquely intimate, almost a journal entry. I cringe at the thought of people reading my personal letters or journal entries as if they were meant for the public. Rest assured... I censor myself as I write my blog even if I do very little editing!!! In these last lines of the letter, Paul returns to his point..."A new creation is everything." Following the law is nothing if you aren't following the whole law, and following the whole law simply isn't possible without grace. Further, it is a mistake to compromise the gospel in order to avoid being "persecuted for the cross of Christ." What compromises of the gospel do we make in order to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ? How do we keep a new creation in our sights, so as to reduce the temptation to compromise the gospel? What does it mean to say "the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world"? Paul and the world cannot be separated? Paul and the world are suffering because of each other? Paul and the world will participate in each other's redemption? Paul does have scars as a result of his ministry: "for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body." What are the marks of Jesus branded on our bodies? How do people look at us and know we are followers of Christ?
3) What is the invitation in all this? To bear the cross more readily. (And maybe I should think more about burning some journals?)
"Holy One, may we live for a new creation, may your new creation be our all in all!"
Breathprayer: "The Cross of Christ... a New Creation."