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Sharon was baptized last Sunday while her church family looked on. For those who are not familiar with what baptism is, she stood in a pool and her mentors immersed her in the water in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It was a happy occasion for Sharon, that she could obey her Lord Jesus in one of the baby-steps of the Christian faith.
Anyone who has studied the history and teaching of Jesus Christ and His disciples in the Bible would know that baptism is a symbol of the new life that is given to anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to the forgiveness of their sins. The act of baptism in itself does not make anyone a Christian, the Bible teaches that it is the one who has become a follower of Jesus Christ who needs to be baptized.
Earlier that morning Vishal, the elder at Marg, shared about how the word baptism means immersion. He explained the restoration of true identity that happens to a Christ-follower and how baptism represents this. He gave the example of how a white cloth when immersed into red dye, turns completely red. That cloth would henceforth be “used for all things red”. It is no longer identified with the colour white. In the same way, the act of being immersed in water- baptism- is a way for the Christian to affirm the truth that they are dead to the old way of life, in wrong deeds and hopelessness without Jesus as Lord. They are now risen to new life with Him as Lord and Saviour and with the church as family appointed by Christ.
So it was a joy to see Sharon get baptized, not just as a individual follower of Christ, but as one gladly accepting herself as a part of the family of God. Sharon’s words to those gathered around the pool, that baptism symbolizes her becoming one, not with just Christ but with His body the church, is timely in an age where more and more Christians are content to live a “Just-God-and-me” lifestyle. This type of lifestyle is found neither in the life of Christ nor in the example of the first church.
In my own case and I am afraid, in the life-stories of quite a few Christian friends, baptism has just been an act of obedience but not an identification with the precious body of Jesus Christ, His church. My baptism, which took place years ago, was done only as a proclamation to the onlooking world that I had become a follower of Jesus. I was never baptized into a church community- such was my highly individualized view of it. Here are two questions worth considering on this matter.
Has baptism become mostly an individualistic affair in contemporary, urban Christianity?
Are we letting an individualistic attitude creep into our church communities by not teaching that baptism also symbolizes the new Christian’s welcome into God’s family, the church?