Until the spring of 2020, global commerce functioned like a finely tuned machine consisting of thousands if not millions of gears, all meshing in perfect sequence. A cargo ship leaving China on a two-week voyage could be timed within 30 minutes to dock in Los Angeles to offload its containers. Prescheduled trucks and trains would be waiting to carry containers to their destinations. Factories and warehouses had their inventories calculated to minimize storage costs by ensuring parts went straight into production and products spent minimal time on warehouse shelves. Airlines could reliably match pilots, crew and maintenance personnel with scheduled flights to keep passengers moving within tightly predicted time frames. The machinery served to keep workforce wages low, but it ensured food, cars, factory parts and consumer goods remained within easy and affordable reach. Then the pandemic hit, and this intricate machinery lurched and coughed to a grinding halt. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced steps designed to restore the supply chain to some semblance of its former glory. American consumers should brace for some rocky times to come, especially with holiday season approaching, as a shipping backlog clogs ports and a trucking shortage prevents products from reaching shelves. Inflation fears are growing as consumer demand outpaces supply and workers have the rare ability to demand higher wages for much-needed services. Several high-profile recent events have underscored how badly the pandemic has thrown global commerce off track. Scores of ships are anchored off Los Angeles awaiting access to two ports that, together, handle 40 percent of America’s shipping cargo. A trucker shortage has prompted gasoline shortages in Britain. A slowdown in electronic chip production has forced car production lines to shut down. New and used-car prices are reaching record highs. And tens of thousands of Southwest Airlines passengers were stranded last weekend because the airline lacked pilots and crew members to operate its aircraft. In all these instances, humans are the crucial factor determining when the machinery of global commerce gets back to pre-pandemic working order. Many employers are doubling or tripling their pay scales to lure workers back. For once, labor holds the upper hand and is able to dictate the terms, including with Biden’s plan to put the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, on a 24-hour work schedule to reduce the backlog. But unless a new, more potent coronavirus variant forces another shutdown, this situation probably won’t last long. Employers will find a way to adapt, even if fewer workers means temporarily disappointing customers with waiting lists for goods and services. Workers who are fully vaccinated and prepared to abide by workplace masking precautions are the ones most likely to reap the wage benefits this new economy offers. But the holdouts, especially the vaccine skeptics, may soon find that an unprecedented labor opportunity has passed them by. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board

Baptism can be a sticky subject among people of faith and the arguments surrounding it have existed for centuries. These arguments can be heated and highly charged, and can cause great division in the church. Over the next few weeks we want to look at some of these arguments from a Biblical perspective in the hopes of reaching some common ground.

Most importantly, baptism is essential for people of faith because Jesus commanded it. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). At the Day of Pentecost, when believers received the Holy Spirit, Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

While baptism is essential for faith, it is not a requirement or prerequisite of salvation. This seems strange considering the words of Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” but it is necessary to read the second part of the verse--“But whoever does not believe will be condemned.” In other words, condemnation does not come from lack of baptism, but rather lack of faith. There are certainly examples of people who have not been baptized and have received salvation, most notably the thief on the cross from Luke 23:39-43. One of the two men crucified with Jesus, the man certainly led a sinful life, and there is no reason to expect that he had ever been baptized. Yet when he came to faith in Jesus in his final minutes, saying, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus assured him of his salvation. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43).

While some might argue over the “why” of baptism, the more common disagreements are over the “how.” Should we immerse or is it acceptable to sprinkle? Should someone be of a certain age to understand the baptism (“believer’s baptism”) or can we baptize young infants? These questions have caused great dissension and split many churches.

There are Biblical arguments for both positions. In terms of immersion and believer’s baptism, that is how Jesus was baptized. Those who favor this style say we should strive to emulate Jesus and follow His example. On the other hand, there is an episode in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas help convert a Philippian jailer to faith. Upon his conversion we are told, “Immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (Acts 16:33). We might assume that the household included young children, although it is not a given.

The Bible does not specifically say how to conduct baptism, so it is open to interpretation. When God wanted to tell people how to do something, He could be very particular about it. As just one example, consider His directions to Noah concerning the building of the ark in Genesis 6:14-16. God told Noah exactly how big, wide and long the ark was to be, and even told him what kind of wood to use. If God wanted us to baptize in a certain way, He certainly would have told us how to do it.

The bottom line on baptism is that all believers should seek to do it as an example of faith because it has been commanded by Jesus, but the details seem to be left to the individual.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know. Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, bschultz27@gmail.com

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board