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09 May 2011

My Baptismal Covenant

It's Easter and baptisms and baptismal language and theology are in full bloom.
Today, two of the baptismal vows made themselves known in my hearing and are accompanying me through this Easter and beyond:

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?


I am thinking seriously about what it means to seek and serve Christ in all persons. This is much stronger language than image of God language. It is also much more particular. On the one hand, Christ is the singular emblem of one particular religion, and in that way not a universally accepted symbol. On the other hand, the common humanity of Christ is the one attribute that (nearly) everyone can agree on, including those who do not revere Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, Christ, of God.
What does it mean for me seek - actively search for - Christ in all persons, especially non-Christian persons? It is one thing for me to say that because of Christ in me, I treat others in an ethical way. It is quite another to say that because of the Christ in you - Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, atheist, pantheist, animist - I am bound to ethical treatment of you.
And how deeply must I search and for how long? If there is no evidence of Christ in a person, must I continue to search? Is there a Christ in each person? Or am I merely to search and never rule out the possibility as a discipline?
Linking the search for Christ with the love of neighbor is striking. It makes the love of neighbor conditional on seeking and serving Christ in each person. At least for the baptized who have so sworn themselves. Ourselves. Myself. Me.
The vow to strive for justice and peace among all people seems to big to be possible. How can I bring peace to the world when I cannot bring peace to my family, to myself. Is it really enough for me to strive for peace and justice where I am, among the people to whom I have access? Are my pitiful efforts sufficient? Can they be multiplied by the work of others? Are we changing the world, one heart at a time?
Do we have to wait for the end of the world, the unmaking and remaking of the world in order to see the fulfillment of the reign of God among us?
How close can we get to justice and peace among all people and dignity of every human being without divine intervention? How many of the baptized are even trying?

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