Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"The Angels Rejoice"

“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

This is a section of scripture that is commonly referred too at my church after a baptism. It is a verse that is in the rankings of John 3:16: many know it by hearing, few have read it, and fewer have considered how it is being used.

It is a wonderful thought, to have both heaven and earth celebrating the public declaration of Christ at one’s baptism. Something is troubling however; this is a passage about repentance not baptism. This is concerning because it adds another piece of evidence that my tradition believes repentance and baptism are one in the same.

Perhaps I am being too critical. I am certainly not trying to minimize the joy we share at one’s baptism. Maybe I am overreacting to my concern that many people who are baptized have not repented from their old way of life(the younger they are the more likely this is to be true). Yet through the teachings and actions of many in my fellowship, baptism is treated as a ticket into heaven and repentance is an assumption.

I believe there is a close relationship between baptism and repentance but that does not make them equal. They are two distinct acts. Maybe the angels do rejoice at one’s baptism but the celebration should not be limited to the baptistery. The celebration takes place every time we stop living a lie of the world to live a truth from God.

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