In Paul’s day, for gentile Christians, circumcision became like a form of “virtue signaling.” It created a pretense, or an appearance, of righteousness that could very well belie one’s real moral standing and true character—or lack thereof! In our day, people put signs in their yards, hang flags from their doors, place bumper stickers on the backs of their cars, and flaunt their personal piety and activism on social media. All of this creates a pretense of righteousness that may not actually correlate with a life well lived. In the Gospels, Jesus’s main criticism of the Pharisees was that they gave off an external aura of righteousness while lacking true righteousness. In other words, to Jesus, most of the Pharisees were virtue signalers! Christians are not called to talk about their virtue or to flaunt it in the world. Instead, they are called to be virtuous, regardless of whether anyone recognizes it. This is what much of the Sermon on the Mount is about.
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