Yesterday at our King’s Romans Gathering/Chapel we looked at Romans 6:1-14. Colin, a student, gave a beautiful reflection/testimony on this text and he highlighted the baptismal themes in the passage. When most of us envision a baptism, we likely picture a joyful Sunday at a church, surrounded by family and friends, with a celebration to follow.
So, if we see the baptismal day as joyful, why does this Romans text connect it so clearly to death?
Because this death is a good thing…a needed death!
As we have already seen in Romans (if you have been journeying with us), the recipients of Paul’s letter typically ordered their lives by adhering to one of two systems: the Roman-Gentile system or the Judean Law system.
Then Jesus comes.
And with Jesus comes a new way of life. This is a life defined by grace, peace, and ultimately a trust in the God who is creator of all.
But stepping into this life begins with a death. A death to the old self that belonged to a conflicting system…a death system.
Baptism symbolically acts out this death. You are buried in the water with Christ, as Christ was buried in the tomb. Then, just as Christ rose after three days, you rise with him. Ancient baptismal fonts, beautifully and symbolically designed for adult converts, had three steps down to represent Jesus’ three days in death.
When you are baptized, you die with Christ and rise with Christ.
Your death is a dying to the “old self” that found a home in a death system.
Your life is a rising with Christ to a new way of being in God’s world.
One thing that can be difficult for us Christians to understand is that this life begins now! With your baptism, you are raised to a new way of being, a new way of understanding the world, a new way of understanding yourself (hopefully more gracefully!).
All this spiritual talk can sound nice, but how does it matter for the life we are living after our baptismal death and symbolic resurrection?
As I follow the intense election going on in the States right now (which is my country of origin), I see how powerful the pull is to trust in a system other than God’s. In our world, it is so easy to believe that the correct political party is going to save us…if only they can get in power. This notion, that I am admittedly struggling with as I write this, is exactly what Paul is writing about in Romans. Do not trust in the systems of the world(politicians, laws, money, relationships, etc.) to bring life, peace, meaning, and ultimately salvation. Trust in God revealed in Jesus.
The question we are left to struggle with is, how do we live as faithful citizens of our world without putting our hope in what the systems of the world promise us?
We can begin, I think, by noticing where we are tempted to put our hope and trust. So, if you were to take an honest look at your life—your hopes, dreams, fears—what does this say about what you trust in? For many of you students, I know it can be easy to put your trust in your achievements in the classroom and what these promise for your future, or in a romantic relationship that you think will bring your life structure, love, and a remedy for loneliness.
As you notice these temptations to trust/hope in worldly things, what would it look like for you to take a small step further into Jesus’ resurrection way of life and away from the systems of our world? How might trusting in Jesus shape how you see the temptations you struggle with?
*If you are a King’s student who is interested in learning more about Christianity and baptism, get in touch with me, Tim Wood.