When I was in middle school, Starter Jackets were “mandatory.” It was simply “unacceptable” to be without a Starter Jacket. So you can imagine my alarm when I did not receive a Starter Jacket for Christmas in 7th grade. I had known since October that simply qualifying for the popularity contest was contingent on owning a Starter Jacket. My parents (and other gift-giving adults in my life) didn’t seem to realize that this was a matter of life and death! Thankfully my birthday occurs approximately one month after Christmas, so I passionately, persistently, and principally poured myself into raising awareness about this all-important symbol of acceptance. By the end of January I had obtained my status symbol, and officially gained access to the suffocating and enslaving world of perception and popularity.

I don’t know who decided that Starter Jackets were “cool,” but whoever that person was, they changed the symbol of acceptance at some point over the summer between 7th and 8th grade. In 8th grade the price of admission to play the popularity contest was: find something unique – something sort of mysterious but not too eccentric – and make that ‘your thing.’ So I pretended to like hockey. Being from Kansas, no one played hockey, or knew that much about hockey …but thanks to The Mighty Ducks and Coach Bombay my classmates were tangentially aware of the sport, which made my thing admissible in the arena of social acceptance, and I was permitted to compete in the contest for adulation and status once again.

It seems that the obsession with status and social approval has always been a thing… a couple thousand years ago a dude named Smalls wrote a forceful and enduring letter exposing the oppression and misery of being preoccupied with popularity and perception. Here’s an excerpt from Small’s letter, “I scheduled a meeting with some of my fellow soldiers in order to talk battle strategy. I wanted to make sure we were broadening our war efforts, and that we were all clear on our specific roles and marching orders. Yet, I discovered that false brothers had been secretly bought in amongst our forces to spy out our freedom in Christ, so that they might bring us into slavery. So I had to spend a sizeable portion of the meeting clarifying and bolstering our commitment to resist these spies; and insist that everyone not yield in submission to enslavers even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved. I emphatically, and repetitiously, pointed out that the enslaving slope starts by simply putting stock in people who SEEM to be influential. The modern “experts”; the “latest data”; the most “current research,” etc. are NOT to be placed on par with, or higher than, the Scriptures. When someone is referenced as ‘an authority on the topic,’ ‘an accomplished author of books,’ ‘a credentialed and influential advocate;’ your response should be, “What they are makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality. Those who SEEM influential add nothing to the supernatural and scandalous exposure and confidence of my marital union with Jesus of Nazareth; nor do any of the “experts” or “influencers” change my primary addiction to the supernatural and scandalous stories, poems, and prophecies of Scripture.”

The resistance that Small’s admonished his friends and fellow soldiers to practice was exceedingly important, not only because oppression is bad, but also because the enslavers were an extremely insidious threat. They were like Satan …crafty and sly. They – like Satan – could proof text portions of Scripture in order to trap their victims. For example, one of the big enslaving “status symbols” of Small’s generation was circumcision. The enslavers would perhaps say, “Small’s has us all-wrong! We above all others are anti-slavery! Look at Exodus chapter 4! God has insisted that Moses must go back to Egypt to lead a slave revolt. God is unrelentingly adamant that Moses accept this mission to free the slaves of Egypt! And what – of all things – does God emphasize on the heels of His cajoling conversation with Moses? CIRCUMCISION! Read it for yourself – – – > “As Moses is on his way to Egypt the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah (the wife of Moses) took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So God let Moses alone. It was then that Zipporah said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

The enslavers certainly SEEM to have a strong biblical argument for insisting on circumcision! Circumcision was considered to be an indispensable component of national and personal identity for the Hebrews. Sort of like how American Christians might regard the U.S. Constitution; there are people who say, “It is as essential as Scripture! Because it is what gives us the freedom to practice our religion and study our Scriptures. Moreover, we are proud to be Americans; and great portions or our national and personal identity are bonded to this all-important founding document!”

Smalls would say, “The US Constitution, and circumcision, are NOT essential!” You can opt for circumcision or not; it doesn’t ultimately matter. You can be a fanboy of the United States constitution or not, it doesn’t ultimately matter. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”