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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Baptism is Weird (and why we practice it as Christians)


Our oldest son, Elijah, was baptized recently. Baptism is a particularly Christian tradition. The baptism of Jesus is recorded in all four biblical accounts of his life and in the book of Matthew, Jesus commands his followers to be baptized as well.

But let's be honest - baptism is kind of weird. Many Christians and non-Christians alike don't quite get it. Why is it done? What does it even mean?

Baptism is an outward symbol of an inner change. It's a way to tell somebody, or a lot of somebodies, about something radical that's happened to you. Perhaps like getting a tattoo or wearing a significant piece of jewelry following a major life event. We don't believe baptism causes a change in us, it's simply a way to shout from the rooftop (or the river as it were) that something good has happened.

Here's the good thing that happened: the person getting baptized has realized something is broken in their lives and they are totally incapable of doing anything about it. They have heard who Jesus is and decided to place their trust in what he did (his death and resurrection) to fix their brokenness. Being submerged in the water symbolizes dying to your life as a sinner, and coming back out of the water symbolizes acceptance of your new path as a Christ-follower.

If you're over 25 (heck if you're over 5) you've probably experienced a feeling of brokenness in your life at times. I feel this way at the end of many long days with the kids. I start the day out wanting to be patient - I want to respond calmly to my 2 year old's tantrum, but I snap at him instead. I wake up in the morning fully intending to love my husband well, but then my careless words cut him deeply. On so many days I miss the mark. I just can't consistently do the things I know I should be doing. In the Christian world, we call this pattern of wrong behavior 'sin'. And once we recognize the seriousness of the problem, that our lives are full of brokenness, then we begin looking for a solution.

Which brings us back to Jesus - Christians believe that around 4 A.D. a God-man named Jesus was born. Which sounds insane, I get it. We believe a fairy tale that we are hopelessly lost and a hero has come to rescue us. And not just any hero, but the son of God. This is right up there with Hercules and Zeus, right?

Except for this stubborn fact: the God-man died. He didn't just die, he was executed by the prevailing world power of the day, the Roman Empire. My kids and I spent an entire semester studying the Roman Empire this year and if anything is undisputed about Roman society it's this: they were not half-assers. Building roads? You can still walk on Roman roads today. Setting up a system of government? The U.S. Capitol building shows clearly that we modeled our government on theirs over a thousand years later. Executing people? They were unparalleled in that arena as well. People executed by the Roman government stayed dead.

The great rescuer, the God-man Jesus, was brutally crucified. Which should have been the end of the story. Except it wasn't.

A rumor began just a few days later that Jesus was alive. That yes, he had suffocated, had been stabbed for good measure and taken lifeless off a cross. His body was placed in a tomb and the tomb guarded by Roman soldiers and yet, three days after the fact, people claimed to have seen him. To have had breakfast with him. To have touched his hands and hugged his neck.

This troublesome rumor should have been squashed right away. Jesus was an enemy of the state. His followers were rabble-rousers and neither the local Jewish leaders in Jerusalem or the occupying Romans wanted to deal with the threat of rebellion from some small Jewish faction. It should have been easy to find a dead body and call the bluff of the Jesus freaks.

But that never happened. Instead, the friends of Jesus, his disciples, began carrying this message, that Jesus WAS God and he HAD RISEN from the dead, out from Jerusalem and into the surrounding provinces and countries. Incredibly, the conviction of Jesus' disciples and their transformation from scared super fans to passionate preachers began to convert Jews, Romans and other first century populations into Jesus-followers.

People began to believe that if this man rose from the dead, than maybe what He claimed was true: that He was the son of God, that he had authority over death and life, and that he could right their wrongs. His death could cancel out the debt they owed God.

In a nutshell, that's what Elijah believes. That's what I believe and what BJ believes and what we think is the most important truth to teach our kids as we raise them.

You can't make things right on your own. Neither can Mom or Dad. But God loved humanity enough to send us a Rescuer. And that Rescuer came to face our consequences, to die for us. And if you believe that such an amazing thing is true....that's the most important thing you know. And that's worth telling somebody.

Elijah Leipprandt from Buckhead UpStreet on Vimeo.

The church we attend throws a big party for kids who decide to be baptized. We are forever grateful for the way Buckhead Church and specifically the staff and volunteers of Waumba Land and Upstreet  have partnered with us as we pour into our kids. Elijah's baptism was a party we'll remember for a long time to come.

 Elijah's beautiful and dedicated small group leader Afton -
who has sat in a circle with him for YEARS. 
 The whole family celebrating this kid's good news
It's okay to be silly with Jesus, the author and perfecter of both our faith and our funny. Amen.  



 
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