Have you ever noticed how strange baptism is? Where else in the world can you find people smiling and consenting while someone pours water all over a baby's head? The other form of baptism is even more shocking: the new Christian is completely dunked underwater three times.
Even the prayers themselves are pretty intense, as the priest tells the newly baptized person that they are being baptized into Christ's death (Romans 6:4).
If baptism is supposed to be all about celebrating new life, why is there so much imagery of death and drowning?
Freedom Through Water
When I was younger, I thought that baptism was kind of like hand washing for the soul. But it's so much more than that. During the Easter season, baptism and the renewal of baptismal vows are a constant theme that we hear repeated. The scriptures and the prayers of the baptismal rite remind us of the times that God used water throughout history to set His people free.
But when we remember the story of Noah and his family being saved, or the Israelite people's exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea, the image of water is a little bit more dramatic than hand washing. The flood in the time of Noah was devastating as it wiped out everything in its path. Immediately after God's chosen people marched safely across the Red Sea, the Egyptians chasing them were drowned and killed by the water.
So maybe baptism isn't really just about cleaning a baby's forehead.
Die to Live
God doesn't want to just wipe off the dirt on the surface of our lives. Just as we inherit different genetic things from our parents and our families, we are all born with original sin on our souls. Just as He drowned the Egyptians that had enslaved His chosen people, God wants to drown the sin that seeks to enslave us.
In His death and resurrection, Jesus offers us eternal life. But if we want to live with Him, we have to be willing to die. I'm not just talking about the end of our lives; we need to die every day.
Baptism isn't just an excuse for parents to dress their babies in white outfits. It's a visible reminder that the only way to eternal life is through death.
If I want to live, there are things in me that need to die. My selfishness, my lust, my greed, my grudges, and my sin have got to go.
Each day we're faced with this choice: will I live for myself or will I lay my life down? Is my life focused on success or sacrifice?
When we walk into a church, we are confronted with the radical call to die. When we see the baptismal font, we are reminded that it's only through death that we can rise with Christ. And when we dip our fingers into the Holy Water, we trace the sign of the cross to say, 'God, drown whatever needs to be drowned in my heart. I want to live with you, so I'm willing to die like you.'
Many of us claim to live for God, but are we willing to die for Him everyday in big and small ways? Today's a great day to die.