Any time people are baptized at our church the previously baptized participate by reviewing their baptismal covenant. I have participated in this way many times, but during the most recent service I was struck in a new way by the importance of what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian is more than saying a prayer that I believe I am a sinner and that Jesus’ death pays for my sins. It also involves responding to life differently. The questions help me think about my life and the marks of a Christian.
- Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
- Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
- Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
- Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
- Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
The answer that you give is: “I will with God’s help.”
I gave the correct answer, but by the end of the day I had failed at numbers 2 and 4 and probably others if I were even able to look at my life as deeply as God. What struck me about these questions is how often I neglect the promises I make. They seem plausible as I read them off a paper, but if I take them seriously, my life will be different.
Continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers are fully integrated into my daily life. Resisting evil—I didn’t resist the bag of potato chips by the same afternoon. Sure my evil is a little more Christian than the obvious pagans. I love to share God’s love because it is so great, but my actions don’t always proclaim His love. I have to make a conscious effort to love my neighbor as myself and I constantly feel that I put myself first. I really thought about the last question. It is the one that woke me up to really think about my promises. Do I strive for justice and peace among people and think of every human being as having dignity? This is a challenge. Every human being has dignity because they are God’s creation. That one is the one that got to me.
Then Peter began to speak, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34). Christianity in Peter’s life opened his heart to the wideness of God’s love. One of the marks of my Christianity is how I treat others with dignity. I promised God that I would love His people as He loves me. That is a lot of love to give out. When I fail, He made a way for me to repent and start over. I think I would really like to be around me if I lived by this covenant every moment.