"My Rights" and Circumcision in Acts 16

This song is from my old life before Jesus, and I think it typifies the American cultural values of individualism and self-determination. Here are the lyrics:

My right to say what I want
And think the way I wanna think
My right I wanna speak my mind
My right to yell my right to scream
My right no one's ever gonna
Tell me what I have to do
I'll live my life the way I want
I don't care about your little world
And I can't believe you're telling me
What's good for me how do you know what's good?
And I can't believe you're telling me
What to believe, get away from me - my right
No matter what I do, to you
Is one big mistake
Well I'm sick of you I know I'm right
You sleazy money grubbing fake
My right my life my soul my mind
My body my existence means
That I don't have to listen to you
It's my right cause I'm a human being

The message? Stand up for your rights!


Here is a passage from the book of Acts, it comes right after the great Church Council in Jerusalem to determine the question of the Gentiles and the Law:

1He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

"...so he circumcised him..."

Four very important words for any man to read!

Why did Paul circumcise Timothy?

Because he was taking him on a journey through a region with many Jews.

What was the purpose of the journey?

To let everyone know that circumcision was no longer required!


A very different message than the one our culture gives us!  Paul is clearly compelled to fight for the rights of others (he goes to Jerusalem to battle against those who would compel Gentiles to obey a Jewish Law), and yet wants to teach his young disciple not to stand up for his own rights.  The message is, make sure people know you didn't have to do this, but rather that you chose to do this for their sake.


Hugh7 said...

Gore Vidal has written a whole book from Timothy's point of view: "Live from Golgotha". In that version, Timothy is not happy about it.

Steve S. said...

Hey Hugh7,

Interesting link...

I can imagine that Vidal's book (not having read it) is not all that interested in history, but rather in using Timothy for his own ends as a fictional character?

What is your take on Vidal's book? What is he trying to say/accomplish by it? Why do you reference it?

I think Timothy's choice to be circumcised is a display of immense personal power, along the same vein as the NT advice to slaves to actually serve and submit with a heart of love, instead of merely obeying their master out of duty or fear. It also seems to be an act of extreme love, and even subversive engagement! He chose to become like those under the law (at great personal cost), for the purpose of inviting them out from under that law...

Love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

(Is this Hugh from Buffalo?)