Cutting Away The Flesh of Race: The Marks of Jesus

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”

~Galatians 6.12-18, Revised Standard Version

Cosmetic, “corrective” surgeries for the eyes, nose and lips are examples of what I would consider a racially- motivated circumcision (though arguable not the definitive area of the body impacted by which the word is defined), a cutting away of flesh in order to ensure social purity and perfection. Persons from various cultures are changing their outward appearance, exchanging their cultural distinctions for features that allow them to appear more socially colored “white” for career advancement, social acceptance and/or the enhancement of self- esteem as the image of the social construct of whiteness is viewed as the image to be made in in American society. My argument is no different from Paul’s as it relates to this matter.

This racially motivated circumcision only brings glory to the flesh and is not a work of the Holy Spirit. For what do we profit in changing our appearance to fit the mold of what is socially deemed beautiful in the eyes of humanity? What of it is tied to the cross of Jesus Christ and His suffering? How does our appearance ensure that we will keep the law or that we are saved by this social faith through a fluctuating grace? The changing of our appearance does not fulfill an Old Testament law or a New Testament promise. We are saved because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and we are able to keep the law because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Race suggests that one’s moral character and likewise, one’s relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ can be determined by appearance, that we can merely look at the social coloring of skin and determine whether one is righteous or unrighteous, chosen or to be turned away. It is because we have associated the social coloring of skin with the nature of good and evil. Perhaps, we have taken phrases like “children of light” and “children of darkness” too literally, attaching their meaning to particular cultural groups (I Thessalonians 5.5). For various reasons, we continue to attempt to locate evil in a particular people group. But, it is a false doctrine to suggest that the social coloring of skin has any position, purpose, power in God’s household of faith, the practice of the Christian faith or in the divine will of God for believers. Those who would incorporate these legalities are false prophets, false teachers of the Christian faith and I join the apostle Paul in saying, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which you have received, let him (or her) be accursed” (Galatians 1.8). A racialized Christianity is indeed another gospel.

Changing one’s external appearance does not contribute to Christ’s work of regeneration within us. I submit that today it remains easier to make external changes that we approve of, find agreeable and are socially acceptable than to “take up our cross and follow Christ” (Luke 9.23). The social coloring of skin is not what makes us acceptable before God and those socially colored white are not without sin neither are they God’s model for humanity. That position is reserved for Jesus Christ alone and His ability to serve as the sacrifice for our sins had nothing to do with race.

Race supports the righteousness of this world and the social construct of whiteness is a self- righteousness. We are made new creatures not by the changing of our outward appearance but by the internal work of the Holy Spirit. The new creature or new nature is “created after the likeness of God” who is Spirit “in true righteousness and holiness” and not that of any human being (John 4.24; Ephesians 4.24). We are to conform only to the hand of God for there is only one Potter (Jeremiah 18.1-12).

So, I don’t allow anyone to trouble me any further about my appearance, the size of my nose, the shape of my lips, the social coloring of my skin because because I bear the marks of Jesus Christ as His servant and messenger.

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