If we want to a join an organization or club, we usually have to do certain things.
We may have to wait until there is a vacancy. We may have to meet certain requirements. We may have to complete an application form and pay a membership and/or annual fee. And we may have to endure some sort of initiation ceremony.
Indeed, when I was at residential college, I was given a task to do to be accepted into the life of the community. (And the tasks that year included: measuring the front of a department store with a string of sausages, and cleaning the post office steps with a tooth brush.) Then once my task had been completed, I had to be immersed in a bath full of a soupy goo to be accepted into the life of the residential community.
Now, of course, that is one extreme—and a silly one at that. But it shouldn’t surprise us, that there is an initiation ceremony when it comes to the church too. It’s called “baptism,” or as it is more commonly known “christening.” (Although properly “christening” should involve the adoption of a new name to distinguish one’s new life from the life that had been led before.)
And the reason the church uses baptism . . ? It’s to give us an opportunity to admit past mistakes and for us to promise God that will try to do better. It’s also about committing ourselves to God and entrusting our eternal welfare into his hands. It’s about admitting we are totally helpless when it comes to that department, and it is about committing ourselves to practice the faith. It’s about promising to put into practice the things that we say we believe, and not just when it suits our other plans. And it’s about committing ourselves to be there for our fellow believers too.
In other words, initiation into God’s church is unlike anything required by any other organisation or club. As a consequence, wanting to join God’s band of followers is not something that should be taken lightly.
Having said that, however, what God promises—the benefits of joining—are many.
They include the restoration of our relationship with our creator. Indeed, God cares, and the one thing he wants above all else is to build a relationship with his people—us. He wants to communicate like a parent and a child. He wants to share our joys, concerns, and troubles. And he wants us to open to a God who offers solutions to the troubles we face.
The benefits include the guarantee of membership in God’s kingdom. Indeed, we can confident about where we are headed and what awaits us when we die. For although everyone will rise from the dead, only the faithful will live with God in eternity.
And the benefits include being a member of a new family—the family of God’s people. And whilst they are perfect—far from it—they should still provide the care, support and encouragement we need to live life, and help us in our spiritual journey.
Joining clubs and organisations, then, is a normal part of life. And initiation ceremonies are very much a part of that. But there can be no more important initiation ceremony than baptism. Because baptism is basically our “yes” to God. It’s where we accept him for who he is; it’s where we accept our own limitations; and it’s where we accept his solutions to life and his gift of eternal life.
As a consequence, baptism is not just any initiation ceremony. It is the most important initiation ceremony of all. But the rite is only the start of the process. What happens after—how we live it out; putting our beliefs into practice—is what living the faith is all about.
Posted: 2nd January 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis