You’ve probably never seen a sign that says, “Adult Circumcisions, Overflow Room.” Wanna get circumcised? Probably not. If you have been circumcised, it was probably done to you before you had a vote. And yet, Paul writes, one of the best things about following Christ by faith is being circumcised (if I write that word enough, I’ll stop wincing…)
“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,” (Colossians 2:11)
Obviously, he’s using a metaphor, describing a spiritual procedure with a physical one. It’s an apt comparison, since both kinds of circumcision cut away an insensitive outside layer to fully expose a more sensitive and responsive inner core (more wincing…). In Christ, the outside callousness of our “sinful nature” is cut away. Callouses are built up through repeated acts – hiking, playing guitar, etc. – and protect our nerves, making the acts hurt less. When we repeatedly do self-destructive things, sinful ones, we build up callouses over our hearts. The first time you steal or lie, it troubles you more than it does on the umpteenth time. That is due to the hard, calloused layer of your sinful nature. In Christ, that layer is cut away, to expose your true sensitivity within, now revitalized by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not that your old habits vanish. But, “in Christ,” they are now, no longer an integral part of your identity. Where once they were members of the “family” of you, now, they have been disowned, cut off. They may still stick around for a time, like unwelcome house guests that will not leave voluntarily. Having been cut off, they are (slowly) dying as the renewed you emerges from within. You are bothered by these old sinful habits, more than you were before, because your new nature, sensitive to the perfect ways of God, has been exposed. You have been circumcised by Christ.
It’s important to understand this, as you struggle with old patterns of sin. Remember: the reason the struggle is frustrating is because of the new sensitivity of who you have become in Christ. You wince because you have been circumcised by Christ.