|Stewardship of Our Baptism|
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6: 3-11).
St. Paul reminds us, in this Epistle to the Romans, that there is only one way to live: in Christ Jesus. One might even say there is only one way to be human: in Christ Jesus! So often, we think of this miracle of Christ’s trampling down death by death for creation as a way for us to continue living as we are forever… That we should not have to change at all, but only through a profession of “belief” might be able to do whatever we want, believe whatever we want—and have a “get out of jail free” card at the Last Judgment. It’s an interesting thought…but it’s not what Jesus Christ taught.
This epistle read at every single Baptism reminds us of Christ’s teaching that we are to be born of “water and the Spirit”. This “birth” is into a new life—not the same old one. This “birth” only occurs after a death to self, and is into our true humanity. This “birth” is only fulfilled and completed with our physical death—our own Passover from death to life. So, what does it mean to be truly human?
In order to understand what it means to be truly human, one must understand that a human being must be able to be in communion with God. True humanity is only possible in a relationship with God where the human being unites his/her will to God’s will. Thus, when Christ bows His head on the cross and says, “It is finished,” and gives up the spirit, the human being is created for the first time.
His Resurrection inaugurates the first day of the new creation. Since there is only one human being who does this, it is only possible for us to be human if we make ourselves a part of Him. It is for this reason that we are called into this wondrous and life-giving relationship through Holy Communion in Christ Jesus. When we partake of Christ, we become His Body, and we become truly human!
We are called to live this resurrected life in Communion every day, in every situation. We must continuously strive for ways to care for this holy relationship with God initiated by our baptism. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Christ. So, how do we exercise good stewardship of our baptism—our own personal connection with Christ’s saving death and Resurrection? We must choose whether to live our lives for the immediacy of passing pleasure (so prevalent in today’s society), or to live for the lasting and eternal joy of being truly human in Christ.
We must choose how we prioritize our lives. If we are living for eternal joy, are we going to sleep in on a Sunday morning, because we have worked so hard all week, or are we going to wake up, bring our thanksgiving offering to God for all that He has done, and be joined to Christ in the Holy Eucharist? If we are living our lives for eternal joy, are we going to defray attention from ourselves by judging our brothers and sisters who have offended us, or are we going to examine ourselves and our own sinfulness, and beg for forgiveness and come to back to Christ in Holy Repentance?
If we are living for eternal joy, are we husbands going to demand the submission of our wives to our judgment, or are we going to sacrifice ourselves for them, just as Christ did for His Bride, the Church? If we are living for eternal joy, are we wives going to reject the headship of our husbands, or are we going to submit to them out of reverence for Christ? If we are living for eternal joy, are we going to teach our children that it is more important to play for a traveling sports team on Sunday mornings, or are we going to teach them that nothing is more important than our relationship with Christ?
How we care for our baptism—our personal connection with Christ, and our initiation into becoming truly human beings—is the most important choice we have as Orthodox Christians. Do we choose to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus? The choice, my dear brothers and sisters, is ours.
May the Light and Love of the Newborn Lord bring us all great Joy in this Nativity season, and throughout all of our lives. May His Word become alive in us, enabling us to become truly human in Him. And may it shine through us to enlighten and enliven the world!
Written by Fr. Chris Rocknage