The purpose was to make Abraham the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. - Romans 4:11-12
Listen, and I will tell you a mystery: God doesn't give a crap about your rules.
Actually, that's not totally true. God knows you created rules for what you believe are good reasons, and that you (or your ancestors) did so after years of faithful practice and study. And God thinks that's nice. Really.
It's just that what God actually cares about is the impulse behind the rules, not the rules themselves.
The love that undergirds the expectations, more than the expectations. The faith that brought you to church, more than your thoughts about who's good enough to be in it with you.
The average UCCer doesn't have much trouble wrapping their head around God caring more about dedication than about circumcision. But holiness codes abound around here, too: only those who are aware enough, active enough, have been to enough of the right trainings, hate the right politicians enough need apply for full membership.
And while God appreciates the work that went into creating many of these codes—really! she does!—and appreciates that you created them based on what you've heard from God himself—really!—the truth is that God just doesn't care that much about your sense of who's in or out. If Paul's right, what God cares about is the faith and the love inside, not just the way it's manifested on the outside.
Listen, and I will tell you a mystery: God doesn't love your rules. God loves God's people.
Ugh. I just can't imagine how you could love somebody like him, God. Then again, he can't imagine how you could love me. Thank you for being bigger than either of our imaginations.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.