This is a pastoral letter written to members of our church whose parents are opposed to them being baptised.
Dear brothers and sisters
I thank God so much for your faith in Christ. As first generation Christians, many of you have chosen to follow Jesus despite strong opposition from your parents.
Some of you have been called fools, others have been banned from attending church and one brother has even been forced out of home. You have paid a price few other Christians in the West will ever pay and for that I praise God and honour you.
Some of you have been called fools … been banned from attending church and one brother has even been forced out of home. You have paid a price few other Christians in the West will ever pay.
All of you now face an important decision: will you be baptised against your parents’ wishes? Some of you have been told to wait until you graduate and others until your grandparents die.
I know how much you love your parents and want to honour them. And I see how deeply you love your heavenly Father and want to follow him.
I hope that these brief thoughts might help you make a wise and prayerful decision.
Your earthly family really matters
Firstly, please don’t think that God doesn’t care about your family. He loves them far more than you can imagine and he wants you to love, respect and honour them.
In the Old Testament, God explicitly commands that we honour our father and mother. In fact, how we honour them is indicative of how we glorify God (Exod 20:12; Dt 5:16). Right throughout Proverbs, we find that following our parents’ instruction is a mark of true wisdom.
And it’s no different in the New Testament. How we care for our parents, particularly in their older age, is deeply connected with the gospel (1 Tim 5:8). The last thing that God wants is for you to dishonour your parents, especially in the name of man-made religious traditions (Mk 7:8–13).
Of course, baptism isn’t a man-made religious tradition; it’s Jesus’ continuing gift and command to his church (Mt 28:18–20). It’s the outward sign that we belong to him.
But baptism isn’t what makes us belong. We’re saved not by the water of baptism but the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:1–5; 1 Pet 3:21–22). With or without it, we already belong to God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
God calls us to trust Jesus today but his command to be baptised doesn’t require an immediate response. All this might mean being patient. It might mean waiting for your parents to come around or for you to graduate or move out of home before being baptised.
But if you’re going to wait, don’t waste this time.
Use it to show your parents that Jesus makes you a better not worse son or daughter. Honour them in such a way that they might be “won over without a word” and “be ready at any time to give a defence … for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:1; 15).
Your spiritual family matters more
Ironically, God’s care for your earthly family magnifies his greater care for your spiritual family. It’s precisely because our families matter that God’s family matters so much more.
It’s not for no reason that Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26).
Just like us, the first-century Jews believed that the earthly family is our primary place of belonging. They too believed, as many of our parents believe, that blood is thicker than water.
But the Spirit is thicker than blood. God is gathering an even greater family—a family defined not by blood but faith. In this household, God is our Father, Jesus is our brother and we are each other’s family bound by the Spirit (Heb 2:11–12; 1 Tim 5:1–2). God has graciously adopted us into this greater family by the Spirit of his Son (Gal 4:4–7).
The church is our truest family—this is where we really belong.
The church is our truest family—this is where we really belong. Jesus says that our allegiance to family is the cost of discipleship precisely because we now belong to him and no longer to them
It’s no surprise then that as much as God calls us to honour our parents, there is a limit. Honouring them doesn’t justify not following or living for Jesus, and it definitely doesn’t excuse sin. In fact, Jesus says that our allegiance to family is the cost of discipleship precisely because we now belong to him and no longer to them (Mt 10:34–37; Mk 3:31–35).
That’s actually what makes baptism so important.
Baptism says to the world that we belong to Jesus and his greater family (1 Cor 12:12–13). It’s the ultimate mark of allegiance. So while baptism isn’t essential, it’s inescapably important. It draws a line in the sand. It nails our colours to the mast. And it marks the beginning of our new life in Christ. Outside our conversion, our baptism is the single most important moment of our Christian life (Rom 6:1–5).
Being a Christian without baptism is like being married without a ring. The ring might not make the marriage but the marriage is signed and sealed by the ring.
If you plan on waiting to be baptised, please know this: there is a line and you can’t wait forever. In fact, I suspect that the longer you wait, the greater tension you will feel between your earthly and spiritual families.
The promise of a greater family
When you decide to be baptised, whenever that may be, I can’t tell you what will happen. I don’t know if your parents will attend and I can’t promise that you won’t even suffer for it.
But know this: God has adopted you in his greater family, and “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).
When your day comes, trust that your baptism will be a visible sign to your family that you belong to a greater family and that through Jesus, they can as well.
Whatever decision you make and whatever might happen, never forget: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD cares for me” (Psa 27:10).
Your pastor and brother in the faith,