“If Christian baptism comes out of the tevilah tradition, how often do Jews that have converted to Christianity tevilah? Is it a one time affair, done in the name of Christ, like in most Christian churches, or is it an ongoing rite?”
In my experience, Res tends to ask some great questions and this one provided a good bit of brain food. On a weekend when we’ve had guests both nights and a complete absence of many extra brain cells… Thanks, Res.
In my other post, Mikveh, I listed the reasons for the immersion ritual. I said the following:
There are several commonly recognized purposes for a mikveh:.
- Conversion & Repentance
- Sanctification & Purification
It seems an obvious answer to me, but I will write it out anyway as a point of discussion.
Down through time we, the Body, have simplified many things which are intentionally complex and in the absence of their complexity have lost parts of the intended beautiful intricacy of our faith. In all fairness, we have also complicated many things which were intended to be simple.
Faith. Salvation. Baptism. Gifts. Fruit of the Spirit. Free will… You get my drift?
As a child, all dressed up in a yellow Gunne Sax dress, I gave my glasses to my mom and joined my brother, Billy, and my Dad in the shallow end of the YMCA pool in Billings, MT.
I was going to be baptized. And the angels rejoiced, I’m sure.
But it wasn’t a conscious decision to identify with Christ, to announce my conversion, to publicly declare repentance or to step into any kind of ministry.
Everyone I knew was being baptized. It was my turn. All the cool kids are were doing it. And it made my Dad smile.
As a 19 year old I stumbled on the shore of the Santiam River and into the hands of a man I’d known since I was 11. As I was submerged into those cold waters, I rejoiced in the knowledge that I was identifying with the sweet Lord who saved me from certain personal destruction. The God who gave me hope in a hopeless state.
At 34 my husband and I held hands on a bright, sunny day in July and picked our way through a rocky riverbed in Tumalo, Oregon. As we prayed together in front of our friends and church family, we immersed ourselves in water, in tears and in service as we stepped into a leadership role in our small fellowship.
Was there ever an ultimate moment when I no longer needed to publicly declare my allegiance to Christ, to be purified or to make myself ready to step into responsibility within the Body?
Has my behavior after the decisions and the declarations I made at 19 or 34 made every moment from then devoid of any reason for repentance, re-dedication or re-proclamation of my hope and trust in Jesus?
What if there was something I could do? Perhaps an ancient, thoughtful ritual simple enough that a child can understand and yet meaningful enough that I could look back to a moment when I openly confessed, declared, and submitted?
God built us to need touchstones. We are drawn to remind ourselves of those significant moments in our lives. In ancient Israel they built altars to remember. Piles of stones and the names of wells. We remember birth, death, triumph, even failure by those mental touchstones in the dim recesses of our heart and mind. We celebrate anniversaries of all kinds. We buy benches and name stars, put plaques on walls and hold memorial services.
How many people have that day when they dunked as a date worth remembering as their life cycles year after year?
How many people will remember a child’s declaration and yet balk at the thought of renewing that public declaration as an adult. These same people think nothing of renewing wedding vows or stepping forward at a religious event to “re-dedicate” their lives when they’ve gone off track. But to re-baptize? Surely not.
Is there something mystical about being baptized or is the personal obedience to a biblical command to stand up and be set apart in identity, in purity and in ministry the true baptism. Is that the true immersion into sanctification?
Is it that decision that makes a distinction and a differentiation between what has been and what is to come. Between who we were and where we go. Where we’ve been and who we want to become.
Is the moment sacred, the action holy or is it the heart to obey and declare from the rooftops our fidelity and faith that which truly sets us apart?
In a church environment the mention of sin has been marginalized into the gray and intangible difference between good and bad choices. Poor life skills. Ignorance. But not sin. Never sin. Rarely is there ownership of sin and therefore the moments of true repentance are also diminished. And marginalized. And even eliminated from our dialogue.
A Jew who observes Torah lives in a constant realization and reminder that God is holy and that we have a responsibility to honor Him in our actions. He is righteous and we are not. We need to approach Him carefully, with reverence and with purpose.
Now, as a part of the Body of Christ, I have access to strength and purpose, anointing and vision that the Jew who studies Torah alone does not. I have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who teaches, guides, comforts and is my companion. I am not bound by the demands of the Law but freed and empowered to follow the leading of the Spirit and obey the Living Word as I am growing in my understanding of the wisdom and virtue of His commandments. I am free to celebrate biblical holidays, participate in Biblical ceremonies and rites.
The only thing that guarantees my eternal standing with Christ is His gift of salvation, His sacrifice and victory over death. Baptism, mitzvot (good deeds/commandments), public declarations… All good things which, within the appropriate context, have merit.
Outside of their proper context?
They become the complexities that hide the simplicity of the Gospel instead of the intricacies which add depth and dimension to our onward and upward race.