It was a special Sunday in December 2010. My 85-year-old grandma, Ah Po, was onstage in my church sanctuary, taking slow, steady steps toward the baptismal pool, where the pastor was waving her toward him. My family and relatives who had gathered had our eyes fixed on Ah Po, excited at what was to come.
As Ah Po lowered herself into the water, she confessed her faith in Jesus before everyone in the sanctuary. The pastor pronounced, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Then he guided Ah Po backward into the water, and when she was raised up again, the entire congregation burst into song, singing, “Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!”
As the sanctuary resounded with claps and cheers, my eyes glistened with happy tears because Ah Po, who had placed her trust in Jesus a few years before that, was now sealing her faith covenant with God through this act of baptism. And like my family members, and the great cloud of witnesses who had gone before us generation by generation, Ah Po had been baptised into His one body, His one Church.
The act of baptism is not only a powerful symbolism of uniting oneself with Jesus in His death and resurrection, which reminds us of the stories behind Good Friday and Easter. It is also a testimony of commitment to follow Christ for the rest of one’s life. This means choosing to turn away from sin so as to live for His glory, and not thinking, “Now that I am saved in Christ, I can sin whenever I want because He will forgive me anyway.”
This is why in Romans 6, Paul urged the young Christian community not to return to their old sinful ways of living with impure motives and breaking God’s law, but to pursue holy living because of their new identity as Jesus-followers. Paul reminded them that “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. … For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7).
The act of baptism also paints a picture of the glory that is to come. Because Jesus rose from the dead, death no longer has mastery over Him, and so one day those who believe Him will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection (Rom 6:5, 8–9). This is why, as Christians, we no longer need to fear death because we have been promised freedom and abundant life in Jesus.
In April 2018, Ah Po was hospitalised after a fall. She breathed her very last breath on a Friday morning and passed away peacefully. My family gathered by the hospital bed, gazing upon Ah Po’s body. She looked like she was sound asleep, but her heart had stopped beating, and her body was gradually turning cold. Losing Ah Po was painful, but as Christians, we did not grieve as those who have no hope. We have faith that because Ah Po had been united with Christ in His death, she too will one day be united with Him in His resurrection. It was not “Goodbye” but “See you soon”.