Baptism is new life—new life in Christ, new life in the church, a new life of joy because the pearl of great value has been found.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. - Matthew 13:44-46
The summer after my junior year in college I was blessed enough to be able to spend a month travelling around southern India with a group of American college students. I can still feel the heat of India; humidity coupled with the sun like a blanket draped over my head daring me to breath.
One hot Sunday we travelled to the countryside to participate in a church service. Following the service, we walked half a mile down a dirt road to an open lot with a concrete trough. A line of women dressed in traditional saris followed us, down the road ready to climb in the water for baptism. The women being baptized that day had been waiting for this moment for months. In India you can’t just sign up for baptism and go under water the same day, it’s a process that requires a few months of preparation and study. Baptism is neither a common thing nor an easy thing. Families are torn apart by this decision; lives are forever changed and most likely marked for a future of suffering. Baptism is death; death to the old life, death to family, death to community. Baptism is new life; new life in Christ, new life in the church, a new life of joy because the pearl of great value has been found.
Every woman that lined up to be baptized that day had to die. The numbers were small because the cost was great. In the Hindu culture of India, Christian baptism is a public statement that carries great consequences, a statement refuting the faith of family, country, and community. The decision to go public through the act of baptism is the second most important decision in the life of Indian believers, especially for women. Many of those women who were baptized that day were ostracized from their communities. The church became the only family they had because parents and siblings disown them. Marriage was no longer an option for the younger women because they became dead to their parents and families. Older women would be beaten by their husbands for shaming the family. Despite all this they came. The women came barefoot and joyful ready to give their life away. Through their obedience and baptism, I witnessed firsthand what it looks like to proclaim with my life that nothing is more valuable than Jesus.
Celebrations took place; there was a common understanding that death to this world brings new life in Jesus. One by one they climbed in to the trough and went down under the water, up with huge smiles and clapping hands. Tears were shed by all, not because of death, but because of new hope. No longer shackled by deaf and mute idols, these women had found a living God, a savior to wash away their sins forever. Baptism tells the world about hope that is offered in Jesus, hope that springs form the darkest of circumstances. Death does not have the final word. Sin does not reign.
We can do the same thing today. We can preach this gospel.
What keeps you from obedience today? Pride? Tradition? Fear? Is anything more valuable than Jesus?