By now, you’ve probably gathered that Southeast Christian Church has a saying that we use a lot: one at a time. We know that Jesus loves everyone, but in the stories we see of Jesus, He goes out of His way to love people one at a time. It’s intentional, thoughtful, and an authentic way of being present with and loving the person right in front of you.
We believe the one-at-a-time way of Jesus is an example of the way we are to live our lives with others. And one of the best moments where one at a time is best seen is in baptism. Almost every story behind a baptism has another story attached to it of the way someone loved that person with a one-at-a-time love.
Baptism is a public declaration of leaving behind the life we’ve been living to step into the life Jesus has invited us into. We use water baptism as a metaphor for “dying to self” so that we are raised with Christ. When we step into the water, we choose to identify ourselves and our lives by the love Jesus displayed on the cross.
This paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (MSG) expresses the depth of what baptism means:
Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
In baptism, there’s nothing special about the water, but the going under the water has become a significant moment in the life of every story that passes through it. The old is gone and the new has come!
What makes the church beautiful isn’t that we all look the same, think the same, and talk the same. It’s that each one of us—with our intricacies, diversity, and uniqueness—has found our stories woven together in the story of Jesus. Baptism is a visible sign of that hidden reality—that we are saved to life by the grace of God.
But it isn’t just that baptism is a visible sign that the story has just begun: Jesus has died so that each one of us could experience a far better life than we could ever live on our own. (John 10:10) We take these pictures, and each week we celebrate this time because every story you see in the water is a story of one person at a time finding a far better life in Jesus.