Friday, October 31, 2014

The Case for Infant Baptism and Practical Tips to Help Children Encounter Christ

1 Corinthians 12:3 -" one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit".

This is what the bible says and yet some evangelicals I've met do not agree with infant baptism. Not making the connection? How about this? These same evangelicals do not consider their children "saved" until, on their own, they can say Jesus is Lord and ask him into their heart.  Also, they are not seen as ready for baptism until they ask Jesus in their heart. However, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can truly recognize Jesus as Lord.

Catholics, Orthodox, and some Protestant denominations believe in infant baptism. As Catholics, we believe at the moment of baptism, when the water is poured over the baby's head, they also receive the Holy Spirit. I believe it gives them an advantage that unbaptized children do not have. I would dare to even say that since Jesus lives in their heart through baptism, they will probably be more predisposed toward the things of God.

Now, I have some wonderful evangelical friends who really encourage me in my walk with the Lord. I have heard some things however by others that have grieved my heart. One woman was talking to me about her 9 year old daughter who was not "saved" yet. Another woman told me how she was talking to her older children and a couple of them mentioned how Jesus lived in their heart. Her little 3 year old son then asked her if Jesus lived in his heart to which she responded, "Not yet." In all fairness, this woman was probably right. Her son had never been baptized so Jesus probably didn't live in his heart through the Holy Spirit.

These incidences break my heart and frankly I do not understand. Someone please enlighten me!

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." - Matthew 19:14

Also, the Jewish people would never have thought of leaving their children out of the Covenant.

Isaiah 59:21 - "And this is my covenant with them," says the Lord. "My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children's children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!"

The attitude of expecting children to make a reasoned decision for Christ before being baptized and before Jesus can live in their heart also makes me wonder how evangelicals view disabled children who can not make that decision and children who die before they reach the age of reason and can make that decision. My guess is they would assume that child would still go to heaven. Then why not baptize them as a baby so they have that extra advantage?!

Personally I do not think we give our children enough credit. In the time when Tom and I were away from the Catholic Church and involved in evangelical churches, we encountered more than a few people who did not think their children were capable of having a relationship with Jesus much less sit through a worship service. It made me sad that at a typical Sunday morning service, the children would be dismissed before worship began and sent off to daycare or a classroom where they could be entertained for the next hour. They did get some instruction as they heard a bible story and did a craft but I think it would have been much more beneficial for them if they had the opportunity to worship with their family.

Little children are capable of more than we give them credit for. We should not hold Jesus back from them. Maybe it is because my children were baptized as infants, and the grace of their baptism has been nurtured, but my children definitely have a spiritual sense and relationship with Jesus. When my 4 year old was only 3, she had an experience where Jesus told her not to be afraid because he was protecting her from the monsters. My 6 year old recently heard Jesus tell her that even when my husband and I were not around, she did not need to be afraid because he was always with her. My 8 year old told me that since she received her 1st Holy Communion last year, she has been growing closer to the Lord. Even my 1 year old seems to have a spiritual sense and love for Jesus. Whenever he sees a crucifix or picture of Jesus, he exclaims, "Jesus!" He also does this when we drive into the church parking lot. I believe being baptized has a lot to do with them being drawn to the Lord. The Holy Spirit in them recognizes and draws them to Jesus.

I can also remember having experiences with the Lord when I was a baby. I have memories of lying in my crib and being surrounded with the peace, love and presence of the Lord. Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, and my "reason" was fully activated, I stopped believing in him and walked away. I believe it was partly because of the grace of my baptism that I ended up coming back to him. I am very thankful that seed was planted in my heart from the time I was a baby.

Children also have amazing, God given imaginations which can help them have an amazing prayer life. I have taught my children from a young age how to pray. I think it is important for us and our children to have time set aside everyday to encounter the Lord. There are a couple ways I have done this which has proven to be very fruitful with my children. One way is to have them picture a peaceful place in their mind (an ocean, a field of flowers, a shade tree, etc.). I have them picture themselves at that place. I then have them picture Jesus there with them. I tell them to be still and listen in case Jesus wants to show them something or say something to them. The other thing I tell my kids to do when they go to prayer is, seek Jesus' face. Both of these ways have been very powerful and my children usually have very profound things to share which I then have them draw or write in a prayer journal. It might start with their imaginations but then Jesus takes off with it. They also look forward to spending time with Jesus every morning using these tools. They are gaining a love for prayer. These methods were also used with my older two girls who love the Lord dearly and have a close relationship with him.

We should never say that children are too young to have a relationship with the Lord. We also should not just be preoccupied with their salvation and them making a one time decision for Christ. What is important is that they come to know and love Jesus. The grace given at baptism helps this to happen.

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