A few days ago, the kids and I were talking about baptism. A lady in our small group was baptized and they got to witness it (which was pretty cool for them). They were excited and wanted to know more about it. So we talked for a while (and maybe weirded out some folks in the store parking lot).
Along the way, one of the kids mentioned that, of course, someday she’s going to get baptized. After all, she goes to church.
Now obviously, I’d love for my kids to be baptized someday. But as I told them that night, and have told them in the past, baptism isn’t something you do just because you go to church. Lots of people go to church who aren’t baptized and should be. There are also lots of people who have been baptized and probably shouldn’t have been.
After all, baptism is best understood as “sign that both portrays a believer’s union with Christ and effects a new horizontal union, joining together the believer and the church” (Understanding Baptism, 15). Which means that if you’re not united with Christ, you should not be baptized until you are. In the same way, if there is no desire to identify with God’s people (the church in the local and universal senses), it should probably raise a flag.
And this is what I told our kids. While I would love them to be baptized someday, this is not something we will ever force them to do. Not without them first having a genuine faith of their own in Christ (something we also don’t assume exists now1)
I look forward to the day when our kids come to Emily and me and say they want to be baptized because they know Jesus is Lord and has died for their sins. And more than look forward to it, I pray that the day will come. But until then, my job is to keep reminding them of what they need to know about who should be baptized in a way that makes sense according to their ages.
Going to church isn’t enough. Having knowledge about God isn’t enough. Until your heart has been given new life by Christ, there is no good reason to be baptized. But once it has been, I pray nothing will stand in the way.