By Stuart Powell
In many American schools, a student’s day starts by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We publicly recite the pledge to our flag and republic to proclaim our trust in those we’ve elected to ensure the safekeeping of our civic freedoms. Top among those freedoms are living our faith and speaking candidly about our government. A pledge is a public declaration of personal conformity to the rule of law in our country. Those who hear our pledge should be confident that we intend to live out the call of “justice for all.”
Peter wrote that the Christian life is also founded on a pledge.
Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit. In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison, after they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed. In the ark a few, that is eight souls, were delivered through water. And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him” (1 Peter 3:18-22, New English Translation, emphasis added).
Peter noted that baptism serves no practical physical purpose, because the cleansing we need is not physical. Instead, baptism is the time and place where we entrust our lives to Jesus Christ who reigns with heavenly authority. It is also a declaration that we will conform to the rule of Jesus’ law to love one another, even when that devotion leads us to suffer like Jesus.
As with Christian baptism, Communion is also a pledge of allegiance. It is a periodic proclamation of the reality of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Eating the bread and drinking from the cup serve no practical physical purpose, yet it anchors our faith in the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice for all people. By participating, we publicly proclaim our belief that Jesus suffered, bled, and died to make us right before God.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.