This afternoon we started the latest of our regular (three times a year) 8-week English-Farsi baptism classes. Today was our introduction, looking at what baptism is.
Both Jesus and Paul (one of his early followers) describe baptism as dying and rising with Jesus, in which we are made one with him and with all the baptised. This dying and rising is not a metaphor. It is a mystical reality. It is also an anthropological and sociological reality.
For my Iranian friends, their decision to turn towards God in the Way of Jesus has meant that their families, their friends, their community, their nation considers them to be dead. This is, of course, a two-way loss. My Iranian friends grieve having been put to death by the state, as Jesus was; they grieve being counted as dead by those they love; they grieve their family’s pain; and I bear witness to their mourning, the outward expression of grief. And we can be sure that their family, their friends, most likely their community, and perhaps even their nation, mourns for them as for the death of any daughter or son.
For some, this would be grounds to rail against religion, whether in the form of Islamic (and other) fundamentalism, or religion in general. But as I said, this is an anthropological and sociological reality. One might as well rail against humanity and society. The hope of baptism is dying to what has already been marred here, and of rising and living into a new humanity and society.