In the last week we attended a wedding and a baptism.
We witnessed the unity of a young man and woman becoming a new family.
And we witnessed the unity of six new believers joining the family of the church.
Both baptism and marriage are sacraments, sometimes called “a visible sign of invisible grace”. Churches understand this grace, and its function, in different ways. But at the end of the day both of these are sacraments; ways in which God reveals Himself to the world.
My girls are fascinated by baptism. At dinner, we talked about what it means: Someone who has accepted Jesus’ lordship decides to make a public testimony that her life is centered on Jesus. (Read why we avoid “ask Jesus into your heart” language here)
On the shore of Lake Michigan the girls waded knee deep, watching our pastors announce the age-old words: Buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection.
Baptism is the beginning. The old life is dead, gone, different. The new life has come. Certainly we won’t live perfect lives just because we are baptized – sanctification is an ongoing process of becoming like Christ. But baptism is the beginning.
I was actually baptized twice. Once by my father when we were in between churches and again seven years later when I had a church to make a public testimony within. Many people who are infant baptized go a similar route (though many more don’t, and there is nothing wrong with that). More on the differences between baptism views here.
In Jewish tradition, baptism played a role of ritual cleansing. Men and women would bathe themselves in a mikvah before worshiping at the Temple or after having a baby. The water for this kind of baptism was supposed to be “living” – either a spring or a river. It could never be stagnant. What John the Baptist was doing in the Jordan River, then, was not something entirely new to Jewish thought or practice.
But the Living Water of Jesus Himself – that was new. Jesus not only was baptized, he commanded his church to baptize, and throughout the New Testament repentance and baptism are connected. This isn’t to say that baptism actually cleanses you (though some traditions do believe that) but that baptism is the next step of a truly repentant heart, of someone ready to say: Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, and no other.
It is a sacred thing to stand witness to a wedding between Christians. And it is a sacred thing to stand witness to the covenant of a person to their God. Because really, that is what we witness when we stand present before a marriage or a baptism. We witness a covenant before God, or a covenant with God in Christ. One lasts a lifetime, the other beyond this life. Is it any wonder when tears fill our eyes and joy fills our hearts?
Observing these sacraments is not just for the participant; it’s also for the family of faith. As I watched Chase and Emily say their vows, I am reminded of my own to Josh. I look at them at the beginning of their road and think of the vow in the middle of mine. Am I fighting for the covenant?
And as I watch Lexi and Leah be baptized, I am reminded of their reason why: Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, and no other. Is that true for me today? Am I living in that reality?
We need to see these testimonies. I need them before my eyes, a living reminder that God is God and I am not. I was baptized publicly to say that Jesus is my Lord, and yet here I am, anxious and worried about many things (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus said that Mary “chose what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” – Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and believe He was who He said He was. We have that same choice: Walk in the truth into which we were baptized, the truth we claim to believe… or not.
Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, which means He knows the end from the beginning, He holds it in His hand and is utterly trustworthy on the path ahead. I return to that truth today – and you can too.