When the sacrament of baptism is discussed, much attention is placed upon the fact that we share in Christ’s offices of Priest and Prophet. Little attention is paid (especially here in the land of democracy) to the third office we are enrolled in: that of King. This truth should be a source of great shame for all Christians, as I believe this kingship is of fundamental importance in understanding what we are as baptized Christians.
Christ’s Kingship is rather self-evident towards the Christian. Christ, as the Son of David, rules over all of God’s chosen people. As the New Adam (1 Cor 15:21-23), Christ is rightfully viewed as King of the Human race, and when he returns to this world, he will confirm that Kingship. (Rev 19:16) The difficulty arises when we try to understand how we share in Christ’s Kingship.
The best way of understanding it is for us to be viewed as stewards of Christ’s Kingship. In the Old Testament, (Is 22:19) the King had several ministers he appointed to carry out his rule in the Kingdom. They had visible marks which identified them as being of the King’s inner circle, and when they spoke, they spoke with the King’s voice, and most importantly, the King’s authority.
How is this relevant to us? The first benefit of being a steward of Christ is that we throw off the reign of sin in our own hearts, and replace it with the rule of Christ. If we try to do this on our own authority, we fail. We succeed because Christ opens up the royal treasury of the sacraments to His stewards. (CCC 908.) Through the Bible Christ, being the author of Scripture; provides a blueprint on how to effectively carry out His rule. (2 Timothy 3:17)
Once we have established reign over ourselves, we are called to share this kingship via being an ambassador to the world. (2 Cor 5:20) This I argue should be the real point of having a white garment placed upon us in baptism. While it does indeed act as a powerful sign of purity, it is also the garment of a diplomat of Christ. We no longer carry out our own will, but the will of He who sent us. What we want is irrelevant. What Christ wants is what matters.
This is why it is such a scandal when Christians do not live up to their baptismal calling. Some will complain “why are Christians always held accountable for sins that nobody else is?” In their own little way, the world pays homage to Christ by way of this truth. The world has the Devil as their King. (Luke 4:6) Nobody expects righteous conduct from the devil. If one is a wicked king, they expect his servant to serve that wickedness. Yet Christ is a righteous King. Therefore, when we sin, we aren’t just harming ourselves. We are presenting a false picture of Christ to the world.
This is a further cause for scandal because the world lacks the means to live a life in accordance with Christ. We do not. We have the sacraments. We have the Bible. We have the Church. We have over 5,000 years of tradition which has been employed in almost every possible condition under the Sun. When we sin, we are refusing those tools our King gave us, once again thinking we know better.
If we look at our lives today, we can see how often we fall short of this goal. Forget (for the moment!) having Christ reign over all governments and societies. How can He do this when His own emissaries reject His rule? How can people know the true message Christ speaks, when his most honored diplomats substitute Christ’s message with their own? Our politicians tell the world that their love of Christ has nothing to do with the way they carry out their legislative duties. Why should the world care about Christ’s law, when the ones Christ shares His rule with do not?
This is why the Church finds herself in such trouble today. Far too many of Christ’s diplomats are too busy representing themselves, rather than representing Christ. This truth is also how Catholics can distinguish a true reform movement from a false one. False reform tells us to adopt the ways of the world. True reform calls us back to living according to the rules Christ has provided for us. False reform has as its aim acceptance within the broader community. True reform has as its aim accurately conveying what our King wants. False reform rests on our own sentiments and feelings, true reform on the principles of one higher than us. In the end, our entire ministry in baptism can be summed up in the words of the great prophet: He must increase, I must decrease.