Belonging in the New Year
Are you comforted with a sense of belonging and acceptance in your life? Often in a New Year, we try new things, do things differently, try to be better at being us. Sometimes this is difficult as we lose who we are or who we think we are as our sense of belonging weakens. It is hard to start over again with a new lifestyle, or a new place, and perhaps with even new friends. We miss that sense of belonging, acceptance, or just knowing what to expect and who to trust. When we struggle with belonging it is difficult to find acceptance much less cherish and celebrate it.
One of the reasons we fear new things is because we don’t want to lose that sense of belonging. We all have different thoughts and ideas and seek others with like minds. When we start afresh or want to change our habits or even lives it is important to have the support of others. Our tribe needs to align with our own thinking. So, to experience success in our changing life, we often seek a sense of belonging. Even among churches, we seek belonging because despite being Christian, among the variety of denominations there are differences in thoughts, beliefs, and procedures. As we look to the Baptism of Jesus, this is certainly a topic that can lead to debate. Sometimes though it is important to use humor to abate what is often sometimes touchy topics.
Seeing Beyond the Details
Jane recently sold her home after living there for many years and moved across the country. She grew up in the Methodist church but started attending a Baptist one when she moved to her new community as she felt a sense of belonging there. One day she was helping a group of women clean the church kitchen. She emptied the large electric coffeepot and handed it to Pauline, who was washing the dishes. Pauline asked, “Can this be washed like everything else?” “No,” Jane replied. “This is a Methodist coffeepot. It says right here on the side, Do Not Immerse.” Over the centuries Christians have debated what baptism accomplishes, to whom it should be administered, and how much water should be used. But somewhere in all the debate, the point gets lost.
It seems we are just struggling with the wrong stuff. Perhaps it isn’t about the amount of water used or the position of the body being baptized. Maybe there isn’t a right formula or specific words spoken. Perhaps it is not about the person being baptized but instead about the relationship being established in that sacrament. Just maybe baptism is about the belonging that comes from a relationship with God who pours out His grace and the relationship with the community that receives the grace-filled new member of the body of Christ. Baptism appears to be about belonging. It is a commitment of belonging to God and belonging to a group of other like-minded people who also belong to God.
Did We Miss It?
All 4 gospels report the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. Interestingly though none of the 4 give any details about the baptism itself. Matthew gives the fullest account where it is clear in the writing that John just isn’t’ real comfortable doing this. John felt unqualified for the job besides the fact that it was unnecessary for the sinless to be washed free of sin. So, John, like us, protests. But Jesus points out that this is necessary and must be done for it is the will of God. It is Christ’s way to create a sense of belonging to the people.
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.Matthew 3:15 (NLT)
Once Christ explains, John agrees, but a bit reluctantly because he doesn’t see the whole picture. However, there is nothing said about the actual baptism. We miss the ceremony! Because suddenly we are faced with the past tense, “After His baptism.” The whole event is over, and we didn’t get a photo opportunity or capture it on video. The next astounding event is the revealing of the Holy Spirit which is another whole topic and one that cannot be discounted, but let’s go back to the baptism. Did we miss something?
Looking Beyond the Surface
Among the significant things we should see are the words of Christ that said, “We must carry out all that God requires.” When we belong to Him our life and thought pattern should also align with His mission and not ours. Jesus saw His baptism as advancing the work of God, which was His purpose and ours. Christ’s baptism was necessary as He confessed the sins on behalf of the nation just as prophets had done in the past. In addition, He was showing support for John’s ministry and launching His own public ministry. Furthermore, the baptism of Christ, shows that He was identifying with the people of God, not to be free of sin but in obedient service to the Father as an example for all of us.
We must look to baptism to seal our belonging to God through Christ. It is in this now established relationship that we can celebrate and cherish not only our relationship but belonging to Him. It is important that we live out our baptismal promise by the daily repenting of sins and accepting the freedom and power God gives us to put our trust fully in His grace knowing that we now belong to Him. And that is the point, we matter because we belong to Him!
The importance of baptism doesn’t reside in the ritual of performance but as a sign of our profession of faith, our mark. It shows that as Christians, we are different than those who have not chosen to gain the comfort of belonging by claiming Him as their Savior. As part of our acceptance of belonging to Him, we must be prepared to help advance His work as we celebrate and cherish our relationship with Him.
Cherish and Celebrate Your Belonging
Baptism should not be forgotten, and we should celebrate it daily, celebrate the belonging, and celebrate that God is well pleased with the body of Christ. Furthermore, we should always invite, calling others to celebrate with us in the body of Christ and to the joy of our Lord. Baptism is the celebratory mark of belonging.
Won’t you be challenged to celebrate your belonging by living out your baptismal vows professing Christ as your Savior and repenting of your sins? Seal your convictions in knowing that Christ was willing to do what was required by God so you, too, could be accepted and belong to Him. Find your motivation in knowing that Christ teaches you that the will of God is to be honored above all else and the sacrifices made by Jesus allow this. Lastly, surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that God’s plan is for your benefit because you matter!
Love in Christ,
When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.Brene Brown
What are Your Thoughts?
Do you consider yourself as belonging to God? Have you thought about the points of baptism? Share your thoughts on baptism and what belonging to Christ means to you.