“Why are you getting baptized?”
“I don’t know but we’re supposed to be. And I will be baptized in the river.”
The Uspanteco man in Guatemala went on to explain to his friend that the local church was in grave error. They had built an outside tank they filled with a hose whenever they had a baptism. “What if five people are baptized in that tank? The first person’s sins will be washed away because the water is clean. The second person might have most of his sins washed away if the first person did not have many sins. Then the water would still be mostly clean. But the poor person who is baptized last will have more sins because the water will be dirty with the sins of the other people who got baptized and that sin water will be on him! That’s why I’m going to be baptized in the river, where the flowing water will wash all the sins away.”
While there are certainly some differing opinions about baptism within the Christian church, it’s safe to say this man had serious misconceptions. I needed to refresh my own knowledge, so I visited the LCMS website to get the official stance on the purpose and meaning of baptism. As you might imagine, nothing was said about dirty, sinful water invalidating the sacrament. Rather, words like “faith” and “grace” figured prominently.
The Bible is replete with words and concepts that can be hard to understand, even when written in our own language. It’s why we have Bible studies and reference materials, why we are encouraged to meet and discover and discuss Scripture on a regular basis. Of course, that can’t happen if you don’t have God’s Word in a language you can understand.
I have no idea what happened to the Uspanteco man, but the Uspanteco New Testament became available to him in 2000. We can only pray that his knowledge and understanding of not only baptism, but the love and grace of God has grown and that he now has a firm faith in Christ built on Scripture.
Congregations are often asked to offer their prayers and support for the newly baptized so the child will grow and mature in faith. That prayer and support is equally needed by those, young and old, just learning about Christ through translated Scripture. Encouraging people to engage with God’s Word—read, study, contemplate what are often new and confusing ideas—is a vital part of Bible translation. LBT has partnered with a number of language communities—Bokyi, Grebo, Kissi, and Limba, just to name a few—to promote literacy and develop programs that will encourage and assist people to use and apply Scripture in their daily lives. As Christians, we are their supporting global congregation. Click here to find more opportunities to help.