Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On Baptism

If you read this blog, you know that I am a Christian. My former atheist and agnostic self would probably scoff at this idea, but I am now. After a friend invited me to church when I was eighteen years old and asked me to read the Gospel of John, I began to approach Christianity with an open mind. I transferred from a secular university to a Christian one. I came from the top university in the country, but my failures and bad memories from the said school made me depressed.

I knew intellectual professors who impressed me with their arguments in class, and I witnessed a social science professor argue with a Christian in class about her beliefs. On their side, God didn't exist and Christians were illogical and fanatical - that they believed in something that couldn't possibly be true. My classmate who was a Christian confessed that even if the professor tries to argue with her and convince her that her faith had no reasion, her faith is still a fundamental part of her being - she believes, and it is her personal conviction, and no one can convince her otherwise even if they have flawless and stellar arguments.

I thought I could keep up with the studies, but I saw smart people but I don't feel any heart from any of them. I realized that I didn't need academic achievements or the arguments of my professors who did not care about me outside their classrooms. I needed care, friendship, and sympathy - but all I got was despair and loneliness, and my attempts to find friends and a group to belong with ended in tears, resentment, and hatred.

I could write about what I went through but I choose not to dwell on it because it doesn't matter now and I have forgiven all those involved. But after that I believed the worst things about myself, and for a long time everything was hopeless and I lost faith in humanity, I felt useless, that until I die I will never be accepted or loved by anyone ever. When I read the Bible, I read that Jesus accepts everyone! He doesn't need initiation rites of violence and coercion like what I experienced in that school. They called him names, mocked him, and made him a joke in front of others. Jesus felt what I felt.

So what of God and his existence? What of philosophical debates trying to prove that God doesn't exist? Is resurrection real? I say, let others debate about it. For me, I don't think people would willingly sacrifice and let themselves be killed for something that isn't real. If anything convinces me of Christianity, it is the martyrs willing to die for their belief. Others choose atheism or other religions, but once I understood the real meaning of Christ, I felt that I'd rather believe it, because in studying the Bible I began to understand a different kind of peace. Peace that comes from God alone.

Late last year, I was depressed again, and I was still unemployed and looking for a job. Then I realized that I was neglecting God, so I sought to find a church. I used to go to church on Sundays without knowing anyone, and soon I found myself not going to church anymore. There was another church nearer to our home, and since my family has attended some of their services, I also began to attend regularly.

I began meeting with a small group to study God's word, and I began to find deep, meaningful relationships with people who face the same struggles as me. As they say, there are no 'lone ranger' Christians. We should find our own church community where we can grow. I am in a church now with an emphasis on discipleship. There are people who can guide and help you grow, and in turn you can also help others.

After a period of preparing, I decided to be baptized last April 29, 2017. Baptism is a public declaration of an inner change of heart. To me, it is like a marriage, a ceremony of your dedication to the commitment. This is a symbol that there's no turning back! After the Baptism, I felt the nearness of God. I knew that God is always there, but it is no longer just an idea but an everyday reality. In Baptism, it is a symbolic dying to our old life where sin ruled us and rising again to a new life.

I am reading the book of Acts, where the early church was starting and started growing. The church had a robust start, but persecution also followed. I know that I am not automatically made perfect by baptism, I know that I will still sin and there will be problems in life, but as Paul said in Philippians:

"I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's Law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith."

For others who would like to know more about being Christian, I encourage you to read the Gospel of John first, keep an open heart and mind, and find a local church you can be part of. And I am also willing to talk to you!

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