Some years ago, a friend suggested I write a letter to the children I baptize, to be read some years later when they have grown up. The thought was that the child should know something ofthe commitment of the church at the time of their infancy, something of the prayers that the pastor and the elders and the members of the church were lifting up on their behalf, as well as hearing a clear testimony of the promises of God to them. My friend thought it would serve as a powerful testimony. I agreed, and began the practice.
I share one of these letters with you. It’s personal, but I don’t apologize for that. Should any of the readers of this column adopt the practice, I would recommend a personal letter as well. More importantly, I pray this brief letter will challenge Madison Anne one day, and all ofus today, to think about baptism. I pray it will drive us to reflect how we communicate both the promise of the covenant and the demands ofthe covenant to the children of the covenant.
Far too often, the practice of the baptism ofchildren is perfunctory, almost superstitious. Perhaps writing such a letter as the following will cause us to take the sacrament much more seriously.
May 21, 2000
Dear Madison Anne,
Today, you are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Your family stands with you before the church, Dad holding you in his arms, while water is poured on your forehead. I wanted to write you this letter, to be read after you've grown up some years later, to tell you what your baptism means, and why it is important.
A long time ago, God’s people were saved from slavery in Egypt. God spared them from His judgment, but only if they had faith. They showed their faith by smearing the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. That blood “covered” them, so that the angel of death would pass over their houses.
Ever since that time, Christians have learned that we are saved by the blood of another Lamb, Jesus Christ. When He died as the Passover for His people, His blood became our salvation. Baptism is a sign of that blood, a promise from God that if you believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, you too will be saved. God will not judge you for your sins, but will save you and protect you and love you. You will be “covered” by His blood.
By the time you read this, your Mom and Dad will have raised you to know Jesus. Already when you were a baby, I heard your Dad speaking to your infant ears all the names of God. I know that by the time you read this, you will have learned many more things about the Lord. And throughout your life, your parents, your church family, and your pastor will have prayed many times that you would walk faithfully in the light of that knowledge of God and a love for Him that fills your heart.
My wife and I gave you a little stuffed lamb today to commemorate your baptism. We did that to remind you of the greater Lamb of God whose blood is our salvation. You can trust Him to save you! Give your life to Him in faith and service. Never apologize for following Christ.
I have on the wall of my office an embroidered saying that I hope will bless you. It reads:
Measure your life by loss instead ofgain,
Not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
and whosoever suffereth most has most to gain.
Here’s what I pray for you: May all your days be lived in joy before Christ. May your life be one measured by loving and sacrificial living for Jesus. May your faith grow deep and strong, and one day soon, may it be declared publicly—perhaps even before the very people of God who witnessed your baptism. Then we will together rejoice that God keeps His promises, for everyone of them is “yes” in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20).
John R. Sittema