Over the past month or so, Sinners and Saints has been studying the book of Luke together. In launching this new community, I wanted to reinforce what I consider the main things: our identity as Christians, the meaning of our baptism, and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. Luke digs deeply into our preconceptions of church life and what we should be about as people of faith, sometimes in a manner painfully close to home. As we noted in our group Bible study last Sunday, Luke is practical. In chapter three, John the Baptist runs around in the desert preaching about repentance. People hear his powerful words, and ask in verse 10, “what should we do?” John replies, “if you have extra clothes or food, share with people who don’t have any.” (verse 11, paraphrased) To a tax collector, John says, “don’t take extra money from people.”(v. 13) To a soldier (equivalent of police officer), he says, “don’t extort money or accuse people falsely, be content with your pay.” (v. 14)
John doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all pronouncement about how to live as a person of faith. There’s no easy checklist to reference when trying to figure out what it means to be a good Christian. In fact, Jesus hasn’t even hit the scene yet. These folks are just trying to figure out what it means to follow God and the law. In the midst of that, they’re dealing with the same struggles we have today: hoarding wealth for ourselves and not helping the poor, taking advantage of others for money, discontent with how much money we have. John’s advice: be happy with what you have, and if you have extra, share with others. He said nothing about going to Temple once a week, or more often. He didn’t talk about tithing, or greeting people before service. My assumption is that he thought people might be following the law in religious worship, but that people had no idea how to translate religious practice into how to live their lives. Sound familiar? And so John called people to a deeper understanding of their faith through baptism. We understand baptism as being baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Christ, but in John’s pre-crucifixion context, what did baptism mean?
John was calling the Israelites to come away from their own context and participate in ministry. He was calling them to undergo personal repentance and come to a new or renewed alignment of life to the purposes of God. He was then sending them back to their regular lives to live in their regular context as God meant for them to live as children of Abraham. Somehow they were missing the point with legalistic interpretations that influenced temple worship and public practice, but not daily life, work, home, etc. In light of the understanding that faith should influence every part of our daily life, how are we called to live out our own baptisms? What could this mean for your own life?
This Sunday, we’ll tap into the rest of chapter 3 and the start of chapter 4. See you for dinner, fellowship, and more of Luke! I’m still looking for someone to bring salad, and someone to bring dessert. If that’s you, let me know!