As some of you may or may not know I”m getting baptized tomorrow. That is, I am publicly (in front of my church and fellowship) proclaiming that Jesus Christ who is by nature, both fully man and fully God, died for me, a sinner, imperfect, who deserved death. He did this because He loved me and He rose from the dead, covering all my sins in ultimate forgiveness and freeing me from the penalty of my sinful nature and allowing me to spend eternity with Him who loves me so completely, Jesus Christ who is my Lord and Savior. I am saved by faith through God’s grace and through no merit of my own.
Phew, hopefully I said that all correctly. If not, correct me, the last thing I want to do is demean God’s love for me and misrepresent the ultimate display of His love.
Early today (as in between 12am and 1am this morning) I received an anonymous letter asking me to truly consider if I was ready to be baptized. Do I really understand the significance and symbolism of baptism? Is my heart truly in the right place to go through with this ceremony? The author of the letter said that personally he got baptized before he truly understood the true meaning of the ceremony. This post is a response to that letter. I debated about writing a private response but this all ties into my reasons for being baptized tomorrow. I know I don’t always think my words through carefully, they are a weapon which I often misuse and in responding publicly versus privately I hope to be held accountable for my words be they positive or negative.
From the handwriting on the envelope I guessed it was a guy, due to the slant of the letters(?). It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly but I feel like the style of the writing exhibited certain traits that I often associated with male handwriting. The fact that it was signed a brother in Christ cinched it. From there it was pretty easy for me to figure out who I knew who was male and would write me a letter. (this was all before reading the letter)
But honestly my first reaction was “How dare you!” How dare you ask me questions and seem to display you have superior knowledge or experience. How dare you hide behind the word brother too afraid to say these words to my face and in your voice. I am ashamed by these thoughts. How unloving were they! especially after we discussed love in large group. I judged the intentions of the writer, forcing emotions and motives on him without love, forgetting everything God has done to show me that he loves me unconditionally despite my own faults. How quick I was to without love, and pronounce judgment.
But why did he write this letter? to share what God has been teaching him. To relieve the burden on his heart and put into practice that which he has learned. To look out for my well-being and to make sure I was not making a decision I would regret. And now I am blessed to say that God has changed my heart and stolen the anger from my heart.
I’ll be sharing a short version of my testimony after my baptism tomorrow but what I don’t touch much on, is why now. I have often thought about getting baptized at an earlier time. My parents never forced me but truly wanted me to come to the decision on my own. I considered it briefly at my home church, but I felt a stranger there. Now I realize that was a two-way street and I was standing on the corner waiting when it would have been quicker to walk. Then I considered here in Pittsburgh last year, but I came to the conclusion that I would have been doing it because two other people from my cell group were getting baptized. But now, this year, I have been convicted to truly live out my faith. That my life should be an obvious reflection of my world view and that it currently was not. This is me, making a public declaration, asking my spiritual family to hold me accountable to what I profess.
So now all the anger is gone. I nearly rejected the act of love a brother in Christ offered to me because of my selfish sinful nature. My sincerest wish is that you would have signed your name. In not signing your name you made the letter from everyone, and being from everyone it lost it’s personality. Honestly I don’t think God goes “Yes! Two people have accepted my truth and love”, I think he says “Yes! Rachel Kobayashi, my beloved daughter has accepted my truth and love”. Your story and experience mean more when I know to whom they belong. True, I knew who you were, but you did not sign it out of fear. And fear has no place here, in the love of God. What God has been teaching me about love this year! One day I’ll share it with you, but I mention this because
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16b – 18
Despite my best efforts I cannot love perfectly though I try. But I can only try because of God’s perfect love for me. I wish that there would be nothing to fear. That as we are member of the church, together growing in Christ, as part of His family are to love each other, but not only so, but that we would want to love each other. I am sorry that you ever had any fear as you shared the truth God has shown you. We are to offer our live and bodies as living sacrifices and your life is an example of that. But this is your story to tell and I will not do it for you. To do so would be a disservice.
And finally, I’ve gotten many comments/questions/jibes about hugs tomorrow. I understand and truly relish in some people not being able to control their excitement for me as I take this step in my faith and I will accept that. But please, respect my boundaries. Are you trying to unsettle me or celebrate with me? There is a time and a place for both.
Even if you don’t believe theologically what I do, please rejoice with me. I have a peace and assurance that cannot be stolen and a love to which nothing can compare.