The issue of circumcision has raised debate among people of different faiths, none more so than in Christianity. Some people have argued that if Jesus was circumcised, why is it that Christians have largely kept their foreskins intact? BRIGHT MHANGO tries to answer the question.
Living like Jesus is a wish that so many people value. Even songs sing of “tikamaenda tizifanana naye” (we should strive to live like him). But if Christians want to be like Jesus, why is it that they have largely shunned circumcision when the son of God himself was circumcised?
Even Abraham was circumcised and God made his covenant with him symbolised in that circumcision, so why are Christians of 2012 living with their foreskins? Are they not supposed to be like Jesus and Abraham?
These are the questions put forward to Pastor Doris Chaponda, executive director of the Women of Victory and pastor of Mustard Seed Church.
“Be like Jesus spiritually, not physically â€“ if we go physical, we will have to wear the kind of shoes Jesus wore,” she said.
Chaponda said Jesus was born into the Jewish culture and had to follow traditions of the culture and his parents.
Circumcision, she said, was a Jewish thing and has nothing to do with salvation.
But Abraham, the father of many nations, was also circumcised, so should Christians not follow him?
Chaponda shot the assertion down too, saying Abraham underwent a circumcision of fatherhood because he was picked from among pagans and to purify him and make him ready for his role as father he had to be circumcised.
She also noted that in the days of the Old Testament, most things were done physically, unlike today.
“Jesus shed blood once and for all. If we truly call on the name of Jesus Christ, we are circumcised. Spiritually, back then to get over the walls of Jericho the Israelites had to circle the city walls and make noise, but these days you donâ€™t have to circle anything to have your problem solved,” said Chaponda.
Back in the days just after the death of Christ, some elders prohibited some non-Jews from becoming Christians, saying “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) â€¦it is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15: 5)
This did not go down well with the gentiles and a meeting was called with Peter, James, Barnabas, Paul and the elders in Jerusalem where the youthful apostles argued at length.
Peter argued that if God sent the apostles to spread the gospel to the gentiles, he made no distinction and purified the gentiles by faith.
“Now, therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our father nor we were able to bear?” Asked Peter, “But we believe that through the grace of the lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Somehow, after the meeting circumcision ceased to be an issue in Christianity. It was not a decree by God and some orthodox minds would argue that circumcision should still be practised because God never said it was defunct.
One of such minds is Sheik Dinala Chabulika of the Islamic Information Bureau National Coordinator,
“If Jesus was circumcised, why canâ€™t we not be circumcised? Who are you going to listen to, God or Paul? ” wondered Chabulika.
Chabulika said Islam views circumcision as a very necessary element of faith. He said the practice has roots to Abraham who was circumcised and passed down the practice to generations, up to the time Prophet Muhammad lived.
“Many Christians get circumcised. Itâ€™s just here in some parts of Southern Africa where people misunderstand the practice, but hey, even the missionaries that brought Christianity here including, Dr. David Livingstone, were circumcised,” he said.
Chabulika said according to the Hadith, which is a recording of the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad, the prophet said there are five things that should be removed from the human body: Moustaches, armpit hair, pubic hair, fingernails and the foreskin.
Chabulika said now that some Christians have learned that circumcision has health benefits, they have started signing up to lose their foreskin.
“At first, people thought that being circumcised would turn them into a Yao, but it is actually an African thing. For example, the Xhosa in South Africa practise circumcision,” he said.