Today Jade Goody and her two boys were baptised in the chapel of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Media comment is, inevitably, ubiquitous. So is the inevitable sneering from those who think baptism is all voodoo anyway. So, what is there to say?
Baptism is fundamentally about (a) God’s generosity to us and (b) our response to God – worked out in our response to each other. Baptism involves acknowledging the love of God – something that is simply offered and not something that can be claimed as a ‘right’. It marks us with the sign of the cross, the evidence of God’s identification with real humanity, living and suffering in the real world. Baptism is, therefore, primarily about what God does and not primarily about what we do. Only then can we respond with openness and gratitude.
But that response involves a public recognition that we are in need – and that is offensive to many people. Baptism involves saying I need to turn away from what is wrong and walk a new path – not with everything resolved, but in humility as one who has no illusions about my own fragility or need. It is that recognition that then characterises and shapes my relationships with and attitudes towards others.
So, baptism is not about ‘thinking I am better than anyone else’. Nor is is about buying an insurance policy from God. Nor does it depend on my understanding the complete theology of baptism. It is a gift and it is for God to sort out with each one of us. But, the key, I think, is in this: God does it – we simply respond to what God does. The rest is detail.
So, I am glad Jade Goody has been baptised and has brought her boys to baptism. I hope the boys will grow up to explore and own what baptism has begun in and for them. And I hope that now Jade can go to her death in privacy and in the confidence that the love of God offered in baptism is a love that nothing can overcome – not even death itself.