Baptism and the NSA Christian

Two weeks ago I began to talk about our Learning Centre discussion on the “no strings attached” (N.S.A.) approach to relationships that North Americans are characterized by. I shared that sociologists summarize the Canadian mind-set as being typified by low trust, low obligation and high freedom. These qualities are not just unbiblical but extremely unhealthy because:

  • A lack of trust will lead to isolation and loneliness relationally.
  • A low obligation mindset will lead to problems professionally and maritally because healthy commitments are the glue that holds relationships and organizations together.
  • A priority on freedom will cause someone to check out when things get uncomfortable.

Given the emphases of our culture, it’s not surprising to me that baptism has become less and less popular in the church – and yet I’m convinced that it’s one of the things God has designed to bring healing to our N.S.A. issues. When was the last time you thought about baptism?
When you join most clubs you sign a document. When you immigrate to a country you might hold up your hand and swear an oath. But when you follow Jesus He asks you to be dunked in water. Strange right?
Like a wedding ceremony
I think that baptism in the Christian life functions a little bit like a wedding ceremony does to a marriage. It’s an event that signals something really important has happened. You might not know the moment you believed but you will remember the moment you were baptized. Like a wedding, a baptism isn’t a secret event. You can believe on your own without anyone knowing about it but a baptism is public. And you can’t be baptized on your own. You need the church. And so it helps us move from being a child of God to being a part of the family of God.
Like a spiritual bath
When the New Testament speaks of baptism one of the phrases it uses in Acts 22:16 is “be baptized and wash away your sins.”  Baptism represents the spiritual cleansing of our salvation. And Titus 3:4-5 speaks of salvation as “the washing of regeneration.” Sin is like the mud on our boots that makes it impossible for us to approach a holy God but Jesus’s blood washed us clean and pure once and for all. Every time we feel the filth of sin condemning us and keeping us from fellowship with God, baptism reminds us that we have had a spiritual bath, and we are cleansed and can approach God with confidence.
Life a coffin
But the water of baptism doesn’t just remind us that we’re clean. Romans 6:3-4 connects our baptism with Jesus death and resurrection.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:4

Baptism communicates something profound about our salvation. When we trusted in Jesus, it was like God counted us as having died on the cross for our sins because Jesus died in our place. Our penalty is paid, our old life is dead, and just as Jesus was resurrected, we have been set free to live a new life with Jesus in the centre and sin in our past.
I think that baptism is a crucial part of the healing for someone influenced by our no strings attached culture. For those who struggle with trust, baptism forces people out of their shell into a relationship with the church that will encourage support, acceptance, discipleship and accountability. For those who struggle with obligations, baptism is the first thing Jesus asks us to do that we might not see any immediate “benefit” in. This can set a pattern for other healthy commitments. And finally for someone who values their freedom above all else, baptism is something you don’t get choose. Our backgrounds may be incredibly diverse and our tastes and preferences even more so, but with baptism, we all walk through the same door into the Christian life, and remind ourselves that healthy freedom submits to God and others.
If our no strings attached culture has kept you from baptism, reconsider the impact this step might have in your life. If you have followed Jesus in baptism, I would encourage you to treat it as precious and think often on the symbolism of the ceremony like a wedding, like a spiritual bath, and like a coffin.  And talk with other believers around you and in your family about the significance of Jesus’ command to us and all that it can accomplish in our lives.
In awe of Him,