I myself don’t have a tattoo nor do I plan on getting one anytime soon but for those of you who do have one, I am 99% that you selected that tattoo with the intentions of sharing a message. Even if the tattoo was somewhat a spontaneous rebellion, it was done with the intention of proclaiming some aspect of yourself and maybe, even a subliminal declaration of your independence. What about scars? Do you have scars from when you first started riding a bike? Getting burned by a sparkler at the 4th of July? Or slipping on a grain cart and bumping your chin? Ok, that last one is totally mine. But even though we didn’t voluntarily receive those scars, they are on our skin with a message or a story of some point in our life. Maybe some of those scars were voluntary during a discouraging and dark time in your life. Perhaps those scars are ones that you didn’t do to yourself and that others did to you both externally and internally. Marks on our bodies, regardless of how they got there, are visible signs of an instance in time that is permanently displayed on or in them.
In Galatians 6, Paul is closing out his letter to the church of Galatia starting in verse 11:
“Not Circumcision but the New Creation
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen. “ NIV www.biblegateway.com
In this text, Paul begins by addressing outward impressions and how often the church would do things simply to appear as though they are religious and doing good works. Circumcision was a big deal and therefore the religious leaders of the day desired for you to be circumcised so that you could boast in your flesh and your own good works. Paul goes against these teachings and says: ‘No! I won’t boast in anything but Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ He, Paul, was not going to be controlled by ritualistic marks of the flesh; Paul desired the mark of a new creation that comes through Christ and the crucifixion to this world. Verse 16 describes Paul’s desire for people to follow peace and mercy who indeed are people of God, the Israel of God.
ESV commentary says that this ‘Israel of God,’ is equal with the church. “ Which sense is best here must be decided with reference to the larger context of Paul’s thought, both in Galatians and in his other epistles, Israel of God. That is, in contrast to the children of the ‘present Jersusalem’ (4:25), the true people of God are the believing children of Abraham (3:7,29), who belong to ‘Jerusalem above’ (4:26-27).”
In verse 17, Paul says, something significant to our discussion: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul was persecuted on numerous accounts throughout his life and ultimately, died for the sake of the Gospel. 2 Corinithains addresses these marks of persecution that Paul received as well;
“23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. “
Ha, our short list of injuries at the beginning of this devo is nothing in comparison to Paul’s list of persecution is it? Yet, notice that Paul didn’t say, “I bear the marks of persecution for Christ,” but rather “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” On one level he was indeed using his marks to prove his commitment to the Lord, displaying the persecution, however, His marks also refer to the ‘new creation’ component of his life. We may or may not ever have scars from persecution or physical abuse for what we believe in: even though that may make you appear ‘more Christian,’ and is actually very honorable to endure through sufferings like Christ, it still doesn’t make you ‘a new creation.’ You are a new creation when you are crucified to the world and the world to you. When you surrender your life to Christ, you bear his mark! You are no longer marked by the world nor do you have the need to have religious rituals as signs that you are committed to Christ. Now, signs and displays of your inward commitment to the Lord may surface, but again, Paul tells us not to boast within those things but only boast in Christ!
“2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. “
2 Corinthians 3:2-4 www.biblegateway.com NIV