When parents who are active in our Christian community ask to have their child baptized it’s a no brainer for me. “Of course I will baptize your child!” However, when inactive parents or parents who are not been baptized come asking the same question I find myself saying, “I see God working in your life, but there’s s few things we need to get in order before the baptism” (Some have viewed my hesitance as me saying, “No.”).
I know that’s different than other pastors. They will treat everyone the same and after meeting the obligatory one time to talk about baptism, they splash the child, never to see those parents or that child again.
So have they accomplished God’s will whereas I am the stumbling stone to God’s grace?
Oh I know there are stories of the one in a hundred who find themselves in the church because of the gracious dispensation of baptismal water, but would we consider such results in any other area of life as okay?
I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue. On the one hand, baptism is God’s action. God calls individuals and parents of children to come for baptism and yet baptism is far more than the splash of water and the Word on a particular day.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” asked the rich young man of Jesus (Luke 18:18). Now Jesus could have said, “Let me splash some water on your head and just trust me.” But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus examined this young man, called him to repentance (selling his possessions) and then invited him to follow.
I believe that baptism is about the grace of God reclaiming one of his lost children, but it is also about repentance and engaging a new path with a whole bunch of God reclaimed people (discipleship).
When the church is treated like a grocery story and baptism merely becomes a commodity then we slip into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Grace is never cheap in this sense. It is certainly God’s love freely given at great cost to God and at no redeeming cost to us, but the life we are called to in baptism is anything but without cost.
So what do you think? How would you approach inactive or non-Christian parents wanting to have their child baptized? Leave a comment.