Summary: We hide our scars thinking they are unsightly. We need to share those scars as a witness to Christ Jesus.
Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house.
In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes socks, and shirt as he went.
He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His mother in the house was looking out the window saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could.
Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother. It was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator grabbed his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.
The news paper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. While looking at his legs the report noticed that the boy had scars on his arms. The boy saw the reporters eyes and told him, “I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go."
As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. It doesn’t make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. May God’s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God. From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
Paul had written this letter to a church he had founded. He was disturbed that there were those who were following him who were preaching a different gospel. A gospel that required them to give up their faith in Christ Jesus. A gospel that required them to be circumcised. A gospel that said that following the law was more important that following Jesus. Throughout the letter, Paul is tries to refocus this church on what is important in their lives – what is important in the life of the church of Jesus Christ. He has told them that it is not about them but about what Christ has done for them and he isn’t interested in hearing about all the things that they have done to make themselves more holy, more pious. He tells them, “May I never boast of anything save the cross of Jesus Christ. And then he tells them of his scars.
For Paul his scars are a sign that he is a follower of Jesus. For him these scars are a stigmata. They validate a missionaries life because unlike some missionaries, some followers of Christ Jesus, Paul never ran and hid but suffered beatings and stonings from those who wanted to suppress the message. And he bared the scars of those beatings.
You and I might be able to identify with Paul. Certainly, we might be able to identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, or from stoning but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly. I joke that I won’t wear shorts in front of small children because the scars on my left leg will cause them to run off in fear. The scars on my chest have ended any possibility of a career as a swimsuit model. But I want to share with you that there are some wonderful things about scars.
Scars are a sign that we can heal
Wounds come from all sorts of incidents in our lives. Some are a result of a fall from a bicycle, a piece of broken glass, a automobile accident, or maybe from a surgeons scalpel. The resulting scar from those incidents prove that we can heal. It may have taken a band-aid. Maybe stitches were required. Maybe some healed in spite of our neglect. But the important thing is they healed.