We Only Baptize Babies

 
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Often times friends of mine complain about our practice of baptizing infants. I used to take time arguing the fine points of why. But now I just tell them, “We only baptize infants.” It’s true. Whether that infant is a 63 year old retired teacher of religion or a one week old Down Syndrome child.

All babies. All insecure, vulnerable, useless, helpless, self-centered, needy, ignorant babies. We only baptize those people.

A number of years ago my wife and I had a beautiful baby boy. But he had Down Syndrome. We freaked out. We frantically worried about all the things we needed to do for him. We worried about the future. We worried about a heart condition many Down Syndrome babies suffer. All the while he just slept and smiled. A stupid smile. They said it was just gas. Stupid, vulnerable, helpless little weak boy that didn’t even know what was wrong with him.

We baptized him. A Down Syndrome baby.

Who is he? To know God? To know ways of the Lord? To know how the planets are formed, the reasons France fought England in the middle ages, to know the arguments of Athanasius regarding the incarnation? He knew nothing. God swooped down and picked him up. He only baptizes babies. He only saves babies.

We are all babies in God’s eyes, really. Here I am worried about my health, worried about my family, wondering how long this snow storm will last, frightened by lightening, staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.

We are all just babies in God’s eyes. Sinful, foolish, dumb babies. Thank God. God only baptizes, saves, rescues, cuddles babies.Jesus made that abundantly clear. How often did He put a baby on His lap and humiliate His seemingly strong rugged “faithful” disciples.

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” – Matthew 19:13-15

Jesus isn’t saying that we need to become innocent or naive, cute or cuddly. We don’t need to become anything. We are babies: vulnerable, weak and helpless, sinful and selfish. We can’t do anything and we don’t know squat! Repent and realize it!

Even we so called wise baby baptizers forget that. With degrees and diplomas, ordinations and blogs, we forget that we are not God, we are not geniuses, we can’t make a star, let alone a perfect good work.

We fail at our marriages. We fail at our promises. We stand befuddled when illness strikes. Our hands are empty. We are still babies.

It’s ok you strong, supposedly mature Christians. God only baptizes babies. He only saves babies. He only resurrects babies.

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.




 
 
Joel HessJoel Hess