For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. (NLT)
Back in the 1920’s, many good people in the USA rightly considered alcohol a major social problem. Their solution was to ban it, and so came the prohibition era. It did some good, but overall it is seen as a failure. Alcohol was still consumed illegally; organised crime got into the act and flourished providing illegal alcohol.
It seemed that passing a law was not the same as changing the heart. Banning something didn’t lead to that “something” being rejected. Such are the limits of law when it comes to morality. Of course some laws are needed to restrain obvious social ills, but laws can’t guarantee good conduct. A law might prevent us from doing something bad but cannot in itself make us good.
This reflects a wider biblical truth expressed in our passage. Devout Jews went through religious rituals which were not bad in themselves but tended to become objects of pride. External laws and traditions were no substitute for obedience from the heart. The focus on the law led to legalism. As long as the externals were observed all was well.
Christians can certainly seek to change laws and it might do some good. But a change of law can never be a substitute for a change of heart. One requires an act of Parliament. The other requires an act of the Holy Spirit.
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