Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
This baptismal vow is difficult for many, as it addresses spiritual matters that many prefer to avoid: evil, sin, and repentance. In today’s culture, blame is easily assigned elsewhere, yet our baptism challenges us to reflect on these themes and how they apply to our lives.
The first challenge in resisting evil is recognising it; evil is real and present in our world, yet it can be subtle in its manifestation. Evil does not (generally) wear horns or carry a pitchfork; yet it can be pervasive and persuasive. Evil will inspire us not in dramatic changes of behaviour, only gradually bringing us off the straight, narrow path. Evil will entice more like a gradual curve than a sharp corner. Yet, once we realise that we have strayed, our faith calls us into action, being both reactive (to the immediate threat) and proactive (more able to resist future temptations), as well as consistent in our perseverence. Ignoring evil, or pretending it doesn’t exist, is akin to permitting it to continue; this is not acceptable to those who take their baptism seriously.
Fall Into Sin
This area gently responds to the human condition: sin happens. This vow presumes that we will sin, and encourages us not to be shocked when it does happen; nor should we presume that we are above sin as a result of our baptism. What it does, however, is reminds us that baptism is a lifestyle choice that takes effort and commitment. Our baptism is not a guarantee that we’ll never have problems; it’s a guideline that invites us back time and again.
This marvelous action is one we should celebrate daily, but especially during this Lenten season. It was Jesus’ first command (Matthew 4.17). We are invited into metanoia (a change of heart or mind), which will not simply address what has passed, but influence what will happen in future. The journey of repentance is also one that does not necessitate a worst-case scenario, nor does it ever presume that repentance is ever impossible. God can forgive any manner of sin, when we come to him with penitent and contrite hearts. The action us repentance invites us to recognise when we have strayed from the path, and to backtrack in order to get ourselves in the right pathway once again.
The declaration that, having repented our sins, we are to return to the Lord, ought to be heard with great joy in our hearts; it presumes that our rightful place (from which we started our journey) was with the Lord. And so in repentance we understand that we are being welcomed to re-join Jesus on our way, admitting that Jesus didn’t stray from us but we strayed from him. The returning to God in this vow is a non-judgmental, non-punitive celebration of our response to the eternal invitation: “Come home.”
Have mercy upon us, your children.
Forgive us our fear to stand up against the evil that we recognise in our lives.
Forgive us our willingness to easily criticize others’ sins even as we justify our own.
Forgive us our egotistical belief that we do not need to change our ways.
Have mercy on us, your children.
Help us to see the evil around us, especially when it is disguised as something good.
Help us to acknowledge our fallen state.
Help us to rely on our trust in you.
Have mercy on us, your children.
Guide us to live into the hope and promise of redemption that only you can offer us.