Baptism vs. Shame

There’s a curious incident in the book of Joshua where the nation of Israel finally enters the Promised Land, but before they go anywhere, they camp for several days while all the men are circumcised (ch5). The story ends with God saying to Joshua: “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt” (v9). What does He mean? 

Suffering as slaves in Egypt was obviously a source of terrible national disgrace. For hundreds of years, they had been subjugated, beaten, and abused. This national legacy became their identity, the backstory they inevitably carried around inside themselves ever since. The question “Who are you?” for an Israelite always returned the answer, “I am a Hebrew, a former slave, a homeless refugee, a nobody.”

But now they were free. In the Promised Land, they had a home. And once they were circumcised, they had a permanent reminder of God’s special covenant with them. Their past no longer defined them; their God and His promises did! 

Circumcision, you might remember, was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham—the promise of a great name, a great homeland, and a great family. It left a permanent mark on the body which reminded every Jewish man, “Your hope to experience those blessings in your future is not in yourself and your virility; it is in God.” 

The New Testament replaces circumcision with baptism, but the essential meaning is the same: “The (spiritual) life you see here is from God Himself, in fulfillment of His promise.” It’s a point with monumental implications for your past, with whatever shame that involves. 

Like the Israelites, many of us carry a deep, penetrating sense of personal shame from our past, especially from the sins of others against us. Being a victim causes deep wounds and feelings of hurt and stain. Somewhere along the line, the inner monologue changes from “I have been treated badly” to “I deserve to be treated badly” or even “I am bad.” Pain from the sins of others becomes shame for our own weakness. 

Our baptism is one tangible way God rolls back that feeling. Baptism is your God-given sign of permanent acceptance, cleansing, and renewal. It is a public ceremony that declares that all God’s promises have come true in your life through the death and resurrection of Jesus! It is God’s way of saying to you: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of your past life and given you the identity of my Beloved Son forever!”

If you’re a Christian and you’ve never been baptized, we’d love to talk with you about that. Please contact one of our elders soon!