By Joel A. Hess –
“A Baby can’t believe,” a lady told me on our church Facebook page. How many times have I heard that? She probably thinks herself an heir of the reformation. Luther and the reformers didn’t go far enough. “You gotta accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, “she wrote, “A baby can’t do that.”
Of course, I told her that Jesus commanded Baptism. He didn’t discriminate. He said, “All nations.” All means all! Also, it appears that babies were baptized in the book of Acts as Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:39). Often when one person of a household came to faith, he or she had the whole household baptized (Acts 16:33)! No one ever mentioned the requirement to make an individual decision for Jesus.
But what probably really bugged me was her pompousness. I know a lot of people think this way, and they don’t mean to be egotistical. But really. Who do you think you are? You think you came to some point where you could accept the God who made heaven and earth, the one who spoke at light appeared, the one who walked on water, calmed the waves, and rose from the dead? When Peter saw Jesus miraculously cause the catch of fish, he stepped away and cried, “I’m not worthy!”
We have a group of severely mentally disabled people who sit up front by the baptismal font. They stare ahead, hit each other, make funny noises, and move their legs back and forth so much they almost cause the chairs to tip back. They need a leader to sit them down and get them up. Quite honestly, they are hilarious!
They are a great reminder as to how God looks at us. When He looks down from heaven except for His divine perception, He probably couldn’t tell who has Down syndrome and who doesn’t. Seriously! Look at the decisions we make in our lives. Do you think you are smarter than them?
So, Jesus demonstrates as much when He scolds his Baptist disciples who thought they were smarter and had more potential to believe than babies: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it!” Wow. He wasn’t saying that babies were cute, innocent, or gullible and prone to belief. Babies are weak and stupid! They also are sinners who desperately need someone to save them. Jesus is simply saying that if you think you are smart enough, strong enough, innocent enough to get to heaven, it ain’t going to happen. Jesus only came for weak, foolish, sinners. If you don’t like sitting next to my mentally disabled friends, get behind, me, Satan!
Infant baptism isn’t an oddity-deserving contention. It isn’t a difficult teaching or an anomaly in God’s Word. It makes complete sense within God’s narrative! It really is the norm. It epitomizes how we all are saved, no matter what age we came to faith in Christ. In fact, according to Jesus’ advice to his disciples, we were all infants when we first came to faith, whether we were a 47-year-old doctor of engineering or an 4-year-old kid with Down syndrome.
What’s the difference between a Christian who denies babies baptism and the Pope of Luther’s day who told people that their money could buy time off purgatory? Nothing. Both rob the helpless from the comfort, peace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Anathema deserved indeed.
For all the academic sweat poured into the writings of the reformers, the Reformation was not for the rich and powerful. It was for the widowed moms raising kids on a waitress salary, for the orphaned kid in and out of juvenile jail, for the adulterer, porn addict, thief who knows they could never have enough money, smarts or intellectual ability to choose Jesus as Lord. The Reformation is for babies, the mentally disabled, sinners, you and me.