In the music industry, it is not uncommon for acts to require a rider for any venue that is hosting one of their concerts. A rider is a set of requests or demands that a performer sets as criteria for performance. They can be anything from technical requirement for the audio to what kinds of drinks are served backstage. Over the years some on the wilder request have surfaced that show how eccentric and vainglorious some acts can be. One that has been often referenced is the rock group Van Halen request for a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown candies removed from the rest. If any brown M&Ms were found with the food backstage, the band reserved the right to refuse to play, and still be fully compensated. Most people looked at it as the ultimate example of spoiled musicians, but really it was something else entirely.
Van Halen was the biggest shows of their day, but they still would play in smaller markets that the bigger names usually didn’t visit. Their tour came with a massive amount of equipment and electrical requirements that many smaller venues would not be ready for. The technical needs of the show were spelled out in great detail in the concert rider. When Van Halen showed up, their crew didn’t have time to double-check if the prep work that had been done. If the wiring wasn't adequate, they could blow a fuse and the show would come to an abrupt halt. If the stage couldn't support the weight of the equipment, it could collapse, putting lives in danger. So buried in the middle of lengthy technical requirements they included the famous M&M clause. With a quick glance, they could tell how well the promoter has done their job. If there was no bowl of M&Ms, they hadn't read the whole contract. If there were brown M&Ms in the bowl, they had been sloppy in their preparations and they needed to check the setup. Every time, they found something wrong. If they found something they could fix, they might delay the show. If it was something serious that couldn't be corrected, the show was cancelled. The bowl of M&Ms served as a canary in the coal mine, warning them of pending danger.
I wonder if God doesn't do the same thing with his people. Give us something simple enough to do but requires us to do it faithfully. It may make little sense to us but serves as a proof point to our faith. If we believe him we will do it, if we don’t we won’t. So when we try to bypass his commands, explain away the need to obey, dismiss the requirement as “legalism” and say God will be fine with not doing it, all we are doing is showing that we won’t be faithful. As Jesus said, “"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. (Luke 16:10)
So when Jesus says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”, it sets up for us a choice. Listen, obey and show our faithfulness or ignore, do something else and prove to be unfaithful. Is baptism all there is to salvation? No, God's grace, Jesus sacrifice, the Gospel message, our faith and repentance, confession of Jesus, faithfulness all are important parts of salvation. But baptism is also a part. And if we ignore it, or explain it away, or dismiss it as superfluous, than it is a great indicator that things are very wrong!God wants to have a relationship with us. He has given us written documentation to what he need for that to happen. Any change no matter how small is significant and is an indicator of a major problem. Are we going to follow his covenant or risk losing everything!