Wineskins Archive

December 7, 2013

Why I Hope My Kids Don’t “Get Baptized” (June 2012)

Filed under: — @ 1:36 pm and

By Paula Harrington

I was barely eleven when I walked down the aisle and became a Christian in the same little church building where my father had preached until ALS took his strength and later his life. It was a Sunday evening and my mother made the long walk with me. Due to her struggle with depression and alcoholism, there were times when she needed to make her life right with God. This was one of those times that it needed to be done publically.

>I remember the freedom and exhilaration that came with accepting Christ and putting him on in baptism and couldn’t wait to make the drive to the big city of Paducah, KY to tell my grandparents the great news. In fact, I told everyone I knew about getting baptized. And I continued to use those words. Until recently.

Now before you begin to speculate about my views regarding baptism, let me make it extremely clear, I believe with all my heart that baptism is essential for salvation. I can’t refute Scripture. Regardless of whether you want to believe that the words of Mark 16:9-20 are or aren’t in the original text, I’ve yet to find one instance in the early church where a new believer wasn’t baptized.

My favorite took place in a chariot on the great road to Egypt. Phillip preached Jesus and the Eunuch asked about baptism (Acts 8:35-36). You can’t teach or preach the Christ without eventually coming to baptism. I’ll spare you the many verses on the topic and stress that I don’t have a problem with it, I do, however, have an issue with how we present it.

A while back, I took a little mission trip with a friend who wasn’t born and raised in the Restoration Movement. We had a fabulous time but it was during this trip that I learned I needed to choose my words more wisely. It bothered my friend greatly that we placed so much emphasis on the act of baptism.

Before you comment, let me explain why:

Every time I mentioned someone accepting Christ and receiving salvation I used the words I had always used, “Maybe they’ll get baptized” and then eventually, “Hallelujah, they were baptized!”

In the eye’s of another seeker, every time someone gave their life to Christ and became a Christian I reduced the greatest decision of their life to what they did and what they got, not eternal life, not the Spirit of God, not anything except wet. You see, I have never in my life realized my choice of words and how they might be misleading until someone unfamiliar with my walk of faith pointed it out to me.

The way she saw it, our act of obedience is nothing more than a work. The wording I was so accustomed to using took the gift of salvation out of the hands of Christ and put in my control or the in the control of the one being baptized.

She watched and listened and came to the conclusion that all we care about is the baptism and it bothered her greatly. As it should have.

Some may say that it’s just a matter of grammar and we all know what we’re talking about but I believe that the words we use are of great importance so my question for you is, “Are we too focused on baptism?” Have we forgotten that there is so much more to being a follower of the Messiah?

Focusing solely on the act of baptism is like a parent focusing on a child’s birth and not the child. Once the newborn is here there is a great deal of time, sacrifice, and commitment that must accompany that sweet life. Parents need to be prepared for the sleepless nights and endless colic, as well.

Focusing on the birth only is refusing to realize that it’s only the beginning. Could a child survive and flourish without care from a loving parent? Can a new Christian without the love and encouragement from their brothers and sisters? Concentrating only on baptism is missing the point of salvation. We are baptized to become Christians. We aren’t Christians just because we have been baptized.

I have decided that my children won’t be getting baptized. No, instead I want them to become Christians. Baptism will be a part of that (Galatians 3:27) but it won’t be the only part and I certainly hope it won’t be the part that they’ll dwell on and proclaim to the masses. I’d much rather they focus on being a Christ follower and loving God and their neighbor as they change their little parts of the world around them with love, grace, and mercy as Jesus did.

As a mother and teacher, I will choose my words more carefully and lead others to Jesus not to one part of a multi-stepped plan but to an entire way of life. I’ll stress that salvation is a gift not a checklist because baptism, Christians, should never be the end. It should always be the beginning.

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