Almost every day that I work, I assist in an ancient practice that has very little religious meaning for the families I serve, but who insist, nonetheless, that this be done. The most frequent reason I am given when I ask them why they are going to have their baby boy circumcised is, “We want him to look like all the other boys.” Medically, it is debatable whether circumcision is beneficial or not. Presently, the American Academy of Pediatrics says newborn circumcision is not medically necessary.
In Genesis, God instructs Abraham to circumcise a male infant on his eighth day (17:12; 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59) as a sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham’s descendents. As a newborn baby nurse I, almost universally, give two medicinals to newborns within an hour of their births: a vitamin K injection into the lateral thigh muscle and erythromicin ointment in both eyes. The vitamin K is given to enable the blood to clot earlier than it would naturally. In the hospital physicians circumcise male newborns as early as the first day of life. A risk for hemorrhage is heightened if they are not given vitamin K. Scientists have studied the process of a human baby’s ability to clot their own blood and have found that the eighth day is the day vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak and, thus, is the ideal day to perform circumcision. The chart below, patterned after one published by S.I. McMillen, M.D., in his book, None of These Diseases, portrays this in graphic form.
While all this is very interesting (at least to me) I am still left wondering why circumcision at all? Why was the commanded sign the removal of the flesh from an organ that was considered private and that no one would see anyway? What kind of sign was that? It seems to me a bit like hiding your light under a bushel.
Memorizing Colossians in a Year with my Facebook friends on the Colossians in a Year Facebook page, I memorized Colossians 2:11 last week:
In Him you have been circumcised with a circumcision not performed with human hands. Your whole body ruled by the flesh has been put off by the circumcision of Christ.
In teaching the early Christians, Paul uses the Old Testament symbol of a relationship with God, the circumcision, to give them a picture of the New Covenant. Christ has come to make you perfect. When you believe in Him, He comes and cuts away the sinful nature with all the lusts of the flesh and by living inside you gives you power to keep the flesh off and live in the newness of the spirit. When Christ circumcises, you are made holy in His sight, “without blemish and free from accusation”. (Col. 1:22b) A relationship with Christ is pure, clean and intimate. Through this relationship you have the power to get rid of the impurities in your life, to eliminate waste and to maintain your balance. He knows everything about you and ushers you in to the Holy of Holies through the blood of His sacrifice. He completely gave Himself for you so He could have all of you for Himself.
A circumcision in the Old Testament occurred in the organ of elimination and intimacy. I’ve always thought that rather odd: the juxtaposition of the base and the ecstatic! May I be so bold to suggest this might have been precisely the reason for choosing it? I’d really like to hear from you who have a thought on this. Like Craig says, “I have very smart readers.”
Living in His grace,