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And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”Genesis 17:9-10
We recently got a new-to-us car. It’s a white SUV. Just like the one it replaced. But something curious: we’ve noticed more white SUVs on the roads these days than we had before. Perhaps it’s simply that awareness of them is enhanced by the new vehicle we are driving. I don’t think it’s because there are actually more of them on the road than ever before. It might also be that we’ve been on a road trip, and with more miles come more hours and more opportunities to spot white SUVs.
When I first began delving into a more dedicated study of the Bible, I made a similar discovery about baptism. As I read the New Testament – especially the letters to the various churches – I began to see references to baptism all over the place. There’s the reference to the cloak of righteousness that we have through baptism (Galatians 3:27). Paul reminds us that the one who does the baptizing is not as important as Jesus, the One into whom we have been baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). And there’s the connection between baptism and circumcision (Colossians 2:11).
No one questions the idea that women should be baptized. That’s not really curious, but it is notable. For baptism is the New Testament replacement for circumcision. The boys were to be circumcised at 8 days of age. But baptism applies to all people. There is no age or sex limitation on baptism. Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Women, men, girls, boys, infants and children: all are to be baptized.
The choice in regard to both circumcision and baptism is that of the parents. They did ask their boys if they wanted to be circumcised. They simply were to have them circumcised. So too with baptism. Just like circumcision, we need not ask our children whether they wish to be baptized. They are not even aware that they need it!
Which leads me to think about how we live out all this. In the case of Christian families, we are to have our children baptized. It’s the command of Jesus. But it’s not the whole command of Jesus. He also commands that we teach those we baptize to obey all things he has commanded. Living it out means that we teach our children to live in the ways of Jesus.
If we have been baptized, we are to live like those who belong to Jesus. God has put his name on us. We are his children. We have been washed and set aside to live a different kind of life as we reflect our true identity as children of God.
As such, perhaps we will have a greater awareness of others who live a new and different life. Certainly we can look for others who are living a new life – especially if we are living a new life of faithful obedience. That’s not quite the same as noticing other white SUVs, nor even remotely as important. It’s far more important. And a deepening awareness of our status and identity as people of God through baptism and faith will serve us well as we look for peple along the same path, and encourage others to join us along that path as well.