Some Things Are Simple

23 09 2010

Making a decision can be exhausting; especially when there are a lot of variables or when I am comparing two equally good things. At the end of a decision-making process, sometimes the final decision means less to me than the relief I feel to have made it.  All the pros and cons lists, all the prayer, all the advice-seeking, all the research; I just want to land somewhere!

But some decisions are simple. In Acts 2:38-39 Peter says, “Repent and be baptized.”

There isn’t a whole lot to think about here. Am I ready to acknowledge that there is something in me that is off? Do I agree that I have done idiotic and reckless things? Honestly, in my heart-of-hearts could I convince myself that I am not a sinner? Not a hope. I may not admit it to too many people, but in my quiet moments, I know exactly who I am. Exactly.

All right then. Acknowledge this before God in a way that is sincere, and open up your hands to receive the thing only He can give: the forgiveness of sins.

One decision down, one decision to go: baptism.

Now this one puzzles me.  Why is this one so hard to make? Whenever I read about baptism in the Bible it does not involve a pros and cons list or any kind of extended self-analysis. Repent and be baptized.

I do not see this practiced in the 21st century.  What I see, for the most part, is people well along the way, who have followed Christ already for years, finally and with much consideration, being baptized. For some it is an agonizing decision. Others make circles around the topic and never get around to it.

What is going on here?  Do we think baptism is some sort of trip-wire that will set off a chain of events that is going to get in the way of the life we know and love? Is baptism the equivalent of “settling down”? Or is it about what others will think, is that our concern?

If so, where are we in the meantime? Living in the loophole of a not-quite-surrendered life?  Exploring the contract, just not signing our name? If so, is choosing to not be baptized the same as saying, “I am not actually sorry”?

It’s strange, all this hand-wringing over baptism when it was meant to be simply obvious.  Baptism is not the end or the pinnacle of anything. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is taking one’s inside world to the outside and saying, “Look how screwed up I am and how great God is!” As if people don’t know already anyway; now you are just being honest.

Baptism, as some say, is “initiation, not graduation;” Jesus might as well be standing at the water’s edge with a towel saying, “Welcome to grade 1.”  What does it mean then when we wait and wait and wait and wait?  What if we have already followed Jesus forever before we get to baptism? That would be like writing a novel starting at chapter two; like building a puzzle but keeping a piece in your pocket; like getting married without the pronouncement following the vow: are they or aren’t they husband and wife?

There is another thing that complicates baptism: the public nature of it; the audience; the whole “in front of people” phobia. The Thief loves to throw gas on this one; he loves it when fear immobilizes us, privatizing our lives and creating a culture of hiding. The idea isn’t to pretend one is fearless; the point is to admit fear. The point is to admit everything that is unfortunate about our condition so that we can celebrate what God is making new in us. Being fearful is not who God made us; God actually made us unafraid; sin makes us feel inadequate. Baptism is about pointing to that sin and saying, “That is not who I am. I am being made new in Christ.” So get out there with your knees knocking and think to yourself, “This is one more reason I am a Follower.”

As I look at it, everything one does before we repent is the struggle. Wrestling with our brokenness, our shame, our hopelessness; those are things that keep us up at night. But repent has the same number of letters as relief and baptism is the high five.

Some decisions are simple.

— Teresa Klassen

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2 responses

23 09 2010
Randy Runzer

Hi Teresa

I totally agree with you. God is clear. He says repent and be baptised and it reads to me as a matter of urgency. He doesn’t say, repent and float around for the new few years and then be baptised. For me it is about committment of the heart. I know that God’s way is the right way and my way is the wrong way. We need to commit and obey and if we are having trouble obeying, we need to examine our hearts and honestly ask ourselves why not.

It is no different when it comes to church membership. It also speaks about committment of the heart to Christ’s Church through our local church which for Carol and me is Sunridge and this is why Carol and I will be taking your church membership class in early October.

God bless you for taking the time to think deeply about what is important and writing about it.

27 09 2010
teresaklassen

Hi Randy, thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you about membership; that is why we don’t put the two together at SunRidge. It is a totally different kind of decision and takes a different sort of consideration 🙂

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