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Rites of Passage: Baptism
Why is baptism important for Christians?
Have you ever joined a group? Started at a new school? Do you remember what happened when you began? Perhaps you were welcomed ‘officially’ and people gave you a round of applause. Maybe you did something special at home to mark the occasion.
Being baptised is in some ways like a special welcome into a local church. Baptism is a sign that someone has become part of the church family. This means that they have decided to live their life in the way that God teaches them to in the Bible.
Some Christian churches baptise babies; this is known as ‘infant baptism’ or ‘christening’. When an infant is baptised, the parents and Godparents make promises on their behalf. The parents promise to bring up the child to love God and to love others. When the child is old enough, they may make their own promise to live as a Christian in front of the whole church at a special confirmation service.
Churches that do not baptise babies may have a service of ‘dedication’ or ‘thanksgiving’, to say “thank you” to God for the child. The whole church usually gathers together as one community, to pray for the family and promise to support them as they bring the child up.
In others churches they wait until people are old enough to decide for themselves before they are baptised; this is called ‘believer's' or ‘adult baptism’.
You can find out about Jesus’ baptism here.
Why do people get baptised?
One reason why Christians choose to get baptised is that Jesus was baptised. He also asked his disciples to baptise others as a sign that they wanted to start a new life. Jesus said,
‘… go and make disciples of all people, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to live how God wants them to live. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)
What does baptism mean?
For Christians, baptism is an outward symbol of something special happening on the inside.
Water is often used for washing. When we have been playing and got dirty we wash our hands before we eat. When people do things or think things that are not right, it’s almost like getting dirt on the inside.
When a person is baptised the water is a symbol that they are cleaned up. This means that they are ready to start a new life but this time living in a way that pleases God.