A Message from Pastor Hale
Those who hate life and fight for the right to destroy it also see Baptism as a great evil. Baptism, as a divine gift, bestows Christian status on children. And everyone knows that a newborn is not significantly different from an unborn child. The distinction is simply location, and the mode of dependence on a mother. It is much like asking someone if he feels older on his birthday than he did the day before his birthday. Human distinctions, like age, net worth, physical ability, and born or unborn, do not get to the root of the value of life.
Life is something much more distinctive than our reckoning of it. It has intrinsic value, since God is the creator of life. All human life is made in His image. So instead of looking at the outward condition of life – what we look like and how much we can achieve on earth – we look to the origin of life. All life is divine, in a sense, since we have a divine maker who calls us to protect and preserve what He has created. The fifth commandment sums this up in these words: “You shall not murder.” As individuals, we do not have power over life. It is not ours to control, eliminate, or decide if it should exist. This angers and frustrates many, who see life not as a gift, but as a curse.
But the issue becomes imminently practical because children are not mental choices. Women do not choose to be pregnant or not pregnant. God decides to create life and connects His blessing of children to marriage. Neither do we get to pick how many children we are fruitful with, since husband and wife do not create, they are simply the vessels God uses to bring forth life – to do His work. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” God really was blessing us, and continues to bless with each and every baby, but since sin and death have entered the world, children, and the lack of children, both mean suffering and some pain to sinners. This world does not work as it should.
But Baptism, as a gift for all, including infants, marks life as having divine purpose. God recognizes the value of life, even if people don’t. And we all do not see life as being as good as God does, because we all are sinners. Worldly people usually only connect cost, trouble, and work with children – all negative things. Checking out at the store one time with a number of my children, a lady said to me: “How are you going to pay for their college?” That is a strange thing to say to a father with very young children. It makes it seem as if college is a divine sacrament giving life – at a heavy cost. But life is free, all it takes is a little water and the allpowerful Word of God. Baptism is to set the course for life living in Christ. It changes what appears to be only work and care and misery, into a divine privilege. Parents get to raise up children for God and lead them to Christ, where grace and love is found. The forgiveness and dignity bestowed in Baptism is life-changing. Because we are baptized we know that God has forgiven all unrighteousness, saved from death, and given an eternal inheritance. Baptism really does change everything.
True life in Christ is a gift. He is the redeemer of all life and He gave His life to win righteousness for us. This forgiveness changes how life is seen. Despite the work and effort needed to raise and care for children, life is always good. In spite of the sin and earthly problems we see, Christ’s righteousness is available for us. It is granted to the youngest among us – freely as a gift. It angers some Christians and many atheists that baptized children cannot choose to be baptized or reject baptism of their own will. But this is how God intended it – we didn’t choose our own earthly life and have no true power over it. Life in Christ, the second birth, is a gift of God. So also, eternal life and Christ’s righteousness are divine gifts that are not chosen or demanded, they are merely received. This is the life of faith, living by God’s promise. True living is living by Christ’s Word and promise. Those in Christ never die.
So Christians should have no guilt over bringing life into a cursed world. The curse of sin is undone in Christ, who became a curse for us. It is always good for husband and wife to be fruitful and multiply. We need not fear how we will manage or how they will fare – God speaks His promise in Baptism and gives what He declares: a new birth in Christ through the Spirit. The knowledge of a good God, through Christ’s death and resurrection, is needed to see life for what it really is.
No matter how weak, sick, or fragile life seems to be, Baptism bestows the righteousness of Christ and eternal life. We are to die with Christ, according to our Baptism, so we may be raised with Him at the last day. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). This newness and resurrection promise we cannot see with our eyes, but it pervades every aspect of life, especially for the most helpless and weak among us. Baptism undoes the curse we are under and shows life as what it truly is: a gift of God that is not to be separated from Him. Amen.
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices.
Who wondrous things has done, In whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms Has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love And still is ours today.