Why do we baptise infants instead of waiting until they are older?
There are people who say we should not baptise infants, rather we should wait until they come of age and they can decide for themselves. Why do we baptise infants? Holy Baptism and Holy Chrism join us to the body of Christ, to the Church. If you read the Service for Baptism you will see words that clearly focus on the protection of the individual from evil. The imagery used in the Baptismal Service even relates to weaponry.
That is, Baptism is an “armour of righteousness” and a “defence against all evil”. Furthermore, Baptism is an initiation into the body of the Church, which becomes our family. For Christians, Baptism is a great joy. This person being baptised “dies to this life and is born into eternal life” (from the Baptism Service). Baptism is also the gift of total forgiveness of original sin and any other sins, and the taking on some of God’s power, grace and characteristics. Finally, in the Sacrament of Holy Chrism we call on the Holy Spirit to enter the individual to enlighten and strengthen that person so that they can understand the word of God and relate in a tangible way to the working of the grace of God in their heart.
If all of the above are true, and we as Orthodox Christians are truly trusting, believing in the reality of these gifts, these powers, this enlightenment and this joy, then why would we delay offering it to any person? Do we delay giving healthcare to our babies, waiting for them to decide for themselves if they need medicine? Do we delay giving education to our infants, preferring to wait until they decide for themselves if they want to be schooled?
Would we be foolish enough to delay dressing them in clothes, allowing them to decide for themselves whether or not they need the protection and covering of clothes? Do we delay feeding them, in training them, protecting them, or giving them any physical or intellectual benefits? So, why would we delay the spiritual benefits?
And what about the baby becoming a member of your family? How ludicrous it would be to think “this child is not a member of our family until he grows up and can decide for himself”! As a parent, brother or sister, you cannot withhold sharing with your child the fullness of family life. As Orthodox Christians we can do nothing other than express the joyous love of Christ and our love for each other by giving each other the greatest gift as soon as we possibly can – the gift of knowing Christ, wearing Christ, eating and drinking Christ, being one with Christ!
That is why we baptise infants. The role of the godparent or sponsor is to nurture, feed, educate and protect the soul of the newly baptised in much the same way as parents do for the body and the mind. So the godparent teaches the child about having a real relationship with God, about attending Church, participating in the sacramental life and practicing the teachings of our Lord in day to day life. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19).
Source: Lychnos August / September 2016