Imagine that you are riding in an elevator from the ground floor to the top, and have 30 seconds to make the “elevator pitch” to another rider on what it means to be a Christian. What do you think you would say? When you boil it all down, condense it, what counts in being a Christian?
The apostle Paul can answer that question as good as any. Out of the 66 books in the Bible and its 1,188 chapters, Paul succinctly sums up what counts in Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor un-circumcision counts for anything. The only thing that counts is faith working through love.”
Clearly Paul tells us that, neither circumcision nor un-circumcision, religion nor irreligion counts for anything. Rather, the only thing that counts is: “faith working through love.” As we look into the background of this verse we see that the Jews in Galatia who had become Christians were preaching “Jesus plus circumcision.” They were telling people that while it was great they believed in Jesus, they needed something more than Jesus: they needed to be circumcised in order to be put right with God.
But Paul will have nothing of it! In this Galatians passage Paul takes on the false gospel that circumcision, or any other kind of religious ritual or work, puts a person right with God. That is legalism, alleging that we make ourselves pleasing to God by what we do. It all adds up to a salvation by works, rather than by grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. Legalists say, “Do! Do! Do!”, but the Gospel says, “Done!”
Paul can sum it all up saying, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love.” That is, faith in the Good News that Jesus has put us right with God. And as we live by the faith that God loves us just as we are, that love changes us. That love does something in us. It is faith working through love, our love for God and for others. We find ourselves no longer trying to earn God’s love, but loving Him for His unfathomable love for us. The apostle John says something similar in his first letter: “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Oh, to simply let ourselves be loved by God! His love transforms us and makes us new people. The only thing that really counts is faith in God and His love flowing through us to the world. That is the meaning of being a Christian told in a quick ride up the elevator!
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.