Beware the dogs. Beware those who do evil. And especially beware those who insist that any ritual that leaves a scar is better than spirited action where Jesus is concerned.
In Paul’s original, the ritual some people insisted on was circumcision. To be a Christian, they said, one needed first to be a proper Jew, and that required circumcision. Paul correctly saw past that kind of nonsense. It’s not what your penis looks like that determines whether you can be right with God.
Today, though, we have all kinds of other external marks and ceremonies, rituals that leave scars, that people will tell you are critical to gaining God’s acceptance.
Sometimes the scars are physical. A woman is told she must return home to her abuser because that’s what God expects of her.
Sometimes they are emotional. Boys are told they have to suck it up if they want to be a real man.
And both physical and emotional scars are often connected to spiritual scars. A family is told that if they don’t tow the Pastor’s theological line, they’re all going to hell. Of course, it isn’t true. It’s nonsense.
Paul’s advice: beware people who insist that scarring you is a requirement for God to accept you. Paul doesn’t say hate them back. But beware.
Most of the time people who insist on these things are probably well-intentioned, or perhaps they have been so deeply scarred themselves that they are beyond knowing better. Just like the dog that bites you is either well-intentioned, guarding the family home, or else has been beaten to the point of meanness. There’s a reason for the phrase, “rabid fundamentalists.”