I have been thinking a lot lately about our baptismal covenant. As an Episcopalian, at every baptism, confirmation and various other special days, the congregants are asked to renew our Baptismal Covenant. It’s lovely really, the things you would expect of a Baptismal Covenant.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers?
And we as a congregation answers, “I will, with God’s help.”
Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will with God’s help.
And those are really easy to say. I love that the covenant recognizes and confesses the need for God’s help in keeping the covenant, because it gets real in the next two questions:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Honestly, I struggle with those two. I mean, of course I want justice and peace among people and I want to serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being – it is what we are supposed to do – but in practice, what does that really look like? How do I strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?
Corruption is all over government and corporate America. I have Christian friends both conservative and liberal, and as we choose sides, we tend to demonize the leaders (and sometimes followers) of the other side. And the more I see memes and articles and opinions offering condemnation and/or poking fun at the other side, the more I see us divided in Christ. We’re not striving for peace amongst ourselves, so how can we strive for peace for the world?
But Jennifer….what they are doing is evil. What they are thinking is evil. We need to condemn it! Maybe, I don’t know. What I do know is that our Baptismal Covenant says nothing about condemning evil. Resist evil – yes. Fight for justice – yes. But fighting for justice doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the right to make fun of or condemn other people. Getting angry and condemning actions and systems of oppression may be right and appropriate, but doing that alone does not change anything and does not actually give justice to those who need a voice and support.
We absolutely do not have to agree with the evil we see. But it does not benefit anyone to merely point it out and condemn it in self-righteous indignation. I’m speaking of myself here. It is very easy for me to see the articles and memes that reaffirm my beliefs and get angry at the other and feel justified in laughing at something stupid the other side has done, or judge another person asking if they can really be Christians if they believe/do a certain thing. But both sides feel that way, and feel that they are the right ones. When I cast myself as the right one, I separate myself from my neighbor and don’t necessarily promote peace. God has been whispering to me each time I do this, “Lean into your Baptismal Covenant, Love. How can you be justice for people? Are you truly respecting the dignity of that person you are chuckling at? How can you encourage peace while standing by the ones who need a voice?”
God is the right one. And He loves everyone. And that is our calling. We are children of God. We are a resurrection people. People of restorative justice, mercy and reconciliation.
I honestly don’t know what exactly it looks like, at least in my life. But as I lean into the baptismal covenant, as I strive to respect the dignity of every human being and serve Christ in all people, all I can say is, “I will, with God’s help.”