By Michael E. Brooks
“After these things Jesus and his disciples came unto the land of Judea, and there he remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized” (John 3:22-23 NKJV).
Having enough water nearby to make baptism convenient is not usually a problem in Bangladesh. This country not only has more than 100 navigable streams spread throughout its borders, but is situated barely above sea level and contains tens of thousands of lakes and ponds, not to mention overflow waters filling its low lying areas each spring and summer during annual floods.
When it is time to baptize, one may simply step outside and within a very short distance abundant water is found.
This is not the case in Nepal however. Mountainous regions may contain a lot of streams, but their flow is so sparse and steep that there are very few pools more than a few inches deep. In order to create enough depth for immersion temporary dams will be built at a place where the terrain levels off for a few feet, then one person may hold the candidate’s feet down while another lowers the head and shoulders, enabling full immersion to take place.
Larger rivers in the mountains are so swift and dangerous that few places may be found where a person can baptize without being swept away.
The varying supplies of water illustrate to us the fact that conditions favoring obedience to God may differ from place to place. Some cultures practice monotheism, and visualize God as spirit.
When Christians preach one God who may not be represented by tangible images, that message is easily understood and fits the world view and presuppositions of its audience.
Others, however, assume that many gods exist, and that they take on forms easily represented by statues, created beings, and tangible things. The message concerning one God is not so easily explained and understood by them.
It is obvious, of course, that where law forbids the preaching of the gospel, or where local prejudice is strong and persecution of Christians is practiced, it becomes more difficult to practice Christianity and to commend it to others.
Faith comes at a higher price in such places. Yet whether easy or difficult, convenient or costly, faith can be practiced and the gospel can be preached. God does not excuse us from service to him simply because it requires effort, or involves danger. Jesus frequently addressed this fact in his teachings.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it'” (Matthew 16:24-25).
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:29-30).
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
All these statements emphasize that faith comes at a price. In Luke 14, Jesus likens the prospective disciple to a builder, advising that he makes sure he has the means to complete what he is about to begin. Otherwise the project will be unsuccessful and the builder (or believer) will fail.
Also in Luke 9:57-62 he calls three potential followers to abandon competing interests and follow him. There is cost to discipleship. We may give up personal goals or status; we may suffer imprisonment or death; we may lose possessions and prospects. Yet what we gain is of infinitely greater worth.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?
By Michael E. Brooks