Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 6:1-14 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The opening to Romans 6 always puts a smirk on my face because Paul answers the question, “If God loves us no matter what, does that mean I can do whatever I want?” I often am embarrassed when presented with this awkward question because it makes me wonder what many of our motives—and the basis of our union with Jesus Christ—really are. Our obsession with our personal actions has caused us to individualize and privatize the deeper meaning of our commitment to baptism.
There were times in my Christian journey where I felt anxious and condemned because of my personal actions. I thought that in order to belong to Jesus I had to behave correctly. I became so obsessed with avoiding personal sins that I was willing to lie to show that I was “serious” about my commitment to baptism in Christ.
Being driven by my personal religious sins wedged a gap between me and my community.
We often forget that Paul’s letter to the Romans is an appeal for holy living in order to unite a dominant Gentile group which was tempted to look down on its Jewish neighbors (The Amnesty of Grace by Elsa Tamez). Paul attempts to deter this group from being sin-centered by reminding them that their whole being was baptized into Christ’s death. Paul uses baptism as a reminder of their pledge to community, peace, and justice.
The baptism of Jesus was not personal but communal. When Jesus was baptized, it was a signal to the world that He was in solidarity with humanity. Jesus’ baptism was not founded on repentance of sinful actions but on the Holy Spirit who helps unite us all. The significance of our baptism ought to help us ask the bigger questions outside of our personal religious sins. This moves us from what James Cone calls a “what would Jesus do?” paradigm to a “what is Jesus doing now where I live?” paradigm (God of the Oppressed).
Where is Jesus right now?
Jesus is where He is needed the most, amongst those who are suffering in inhumane conditions. Our commitment to baptism is more than just doing, it is about being. Being with Jesus is how your old self dies in order to live a new life in community with others.
Recalibrate: What challenges do you face when you pivot from a privatized faith to a communal faith?
Respond: Instead of praying for just your actions, pray to God to help you become a better person within your community.
Research: This week, look up some of the challenges your community is facing and find a way to be more involved.
Remember: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14, ESV).
Get some crayons and paper out and draw with your little one. Draw a love heart and a smiley face. Tell them love makes you happy. Trace their little hand then let them trace yours. Tell them Jesus gave us hands to be gentle with. Trace their feet then let them trace yours. Tell them Jesus gave us feet to take us on adventures to meet other people. Draw a mouth and say Jesus gave us words so we could sing love songs and tell the world how much Jesus loves them.
The Bible tells us, in Romans 6, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” What words or pictures would you use that can show what living with Christ looks, sounds, and feels like? Create something like a poster or a screensaver and put it somewhere you can see it.
The day I got baptized, I remember standing in front of the church and participating in a profession of faith, where you publicly agree to abide by Biblical truths (i.e., “I believe the Sabbath day is holy,” “I will read and study my Bible daily,” etc.). It seemed like getting baptized suddenly turned into following all these regulations. Paul encourages us to live a life of holiness and to welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives, not follow a list of meaningless rules. Think of rules you’ve kept or are keeping that have lost their meaning. Pray and ask God to help you to seek Him first in order to have Him live within you.