I stared at the wedding band on Jack’s finger. “You got married! When did this happen?” Jack and his girlfriend were unconventional, but this was seriously under the radar since I considered him one of my close friends. “Oh no,” he replied, “We didn’t get married. We just bought wedding rings.”
I tried hard to conceal my puzzled look. What the heck? Wedding rings without a wedding?
We humans somehow know that “symbolic” acts have significance. So it is not surprising that Christ-followers take a concrete physical action to represent this spiritual change. Baptism for Christ-followers reasserts that our belief is not just between us and God. It is between us and God and His family, the church.
So what did I learn from Jack? First, both marriage and accepting Christ represent a fundamental change, not a gradual movement. Jack’s slide into marriage was confusing. We can be in love or living with someone, but we intuitively know this is not the same as making a lifelong covenant. In the same way I can explore Christ’s claims, but this is not the same as choosing to throw out the white flag of my independence and throw myself on His grace. Baptism doesn’t make us a believer but it does represent a spiritual change.
Second, Jack confused me because his use of a “symbol” has meaning known to people around him. So too baptism, while not creating a change, does speak to those around us, “I have committed my life to Christ. I am a new creature. I have been washed of sin. I die to self and am raised with Jesus. My life is no longer my own.”
So embrace the symbol. If you are a believer but find yourself reluctant to be baptized, what about the meaning of this symbol is a block to you? Give it to God and trust Him as you move forward.