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)
Some years ago at a Parish Council meeting of what was then my local church, there was a debate about some contentious issue. At one point, a Council member reminded the group that they needed to remember they were, after all, Christians. Hearing this, one elderly lady stood up and told the group very forcefully that we were not Christians, we were Anglicans.
Rather an extreme example of denominationalism which thankfully is not as prominent now as it was then. Giving priority to some man made label rather than to our underlying allegiance to Jesus. Putting emphasis on a certain “brand” of our faith rather than on the faith itself.
Paul is telling his Jewish readers not to rely on various outward rules or rituals, such as circumcision. Mere ethnicity does not determine the genuineness of one’s faith. In our day, having a Christian parent does not decide our eternal destiny. Just as being a Jew did not decide whether a particular Jew was truly what we might call a Christian.
Let’s not retreat into tribalism, whereby we define ourselves by our particular church traditions. This is not the essence of our faith. The “labels” we adopt ultimately matter little compared to our devotion to Jesus and others. After all, when we finally face Jesus, he won’t be asking about what church we went to or what theological system we embraced.
Being an Anglican or a Pentecostal or a Baptist means little to Jesus. In the new heavens and new earth, the labels are ripped off.