Category Archives: Church
Dear Prefixed Life,
My nephew ******** is supposed to be baptized in a month. His parents are good people but they don’t attend church. They don’t think my nephew is ready to be baptized because he still does a bunch of stuff that typical 13-year old boys do and they think he will be a bad example for others of how a baptized Christian is supposed to act. They won’t forbid him from being baptized, but they want me to speak with him since we go to the same church and see if I can get him to wait until he is more mature.
I agree that he should perhaps wait a year or so, but I think his parents should talk to him about this; not me.
Do you think I speak to him? And, if so, what should I say to him?
Misha in Los Angeles
Thank you for taking your valuable time to write the Prefixed Life and entrusting us to opine on this question that is clearly important to you, your nephew, and your nephew’s parents.
First, definitely speak with him.
But notice I said speak with him. Not speak to him. The difference is huge…especially to a 13-year old.
Teenagers need our love and our attention. But more than anything, most teenagers need acceptance and to know grown-ups care about them during this awkward stage of their lives.
Speak with him. But not because you have an agenda to push on him with regard to baptism. Speak with him because you like him, you care about him, and you enjoy spending time with him. If the conversation happens to turn to baptism (and only if it naturally goes there — no reason to force it), be prepared with a few questions to ask him about it.
Then all of you have to do is:
Don’t fake being interested so you can get to the part where you deliver your advice.
Actually be interested.
Although we would like to think that kids act and behave how their parents have been raised them, modern studies tend to show otherwise. The truth is that the majority of kids who are in their early teens tend to think, speak, and behave in the matter which the grown-ups in their life expect them to.
If you want him to mature and “be an example of a proper Christian” preaching at him won’t work. Depending on how influential you are in his life, he may follow your advice whatever it is. But, ultimately, that would not be a good thing. He should not be living his life to please his parents, or Auntie Misha, or his religion’s dictates.
This is his life, and his decision, and his relationship with his God.
If you want him to mature or act better, then decide how you would treat him if he was “the model Christian.” And treat him accordingly. If you give him the advice that he should wait for a year what you are subtly communicating to him is that he is not mature, and that is not ready to have a relationship with God, and that since he is still a sinner he is not yet ready for a deeper connection with God.
But if, instead, you treat him like he is already a mature follower-of-God and communicate that because of his status with God and his maturity; you might be shocked how quickly he steps us and fills those roles.
True Love never seeks to persuade others to do what we want them to do. True Love always empowers others to find out who they are. And become that. And True Love accepts their decision, accepts them, encourages them, and cares. Always.
That is what Love is.
This might be hard for you to accept. If you cannot accept it, then do not. You obviously care a lot about this young man and his parents. All three are blessed to have you in their life. As long as you demonstrate that you care, accept, and Love all three of them — any decision you make — will be the right one.
One final thought: We often develop the thought that we need to “clean ourselves up” before we go to God. I don’t know any religion that actually teaches this. God accepts us and loves us exactly as we are. If we wait to go to God because we aren’t mature enough or still commit sins or don’t attend church regularly enough, or any other reason — we don’t yet understand God and what God is all about.
We go to God and then He will help us become better. Trying to become better so God will accept us . . . defeats the purpose . . . and quite often results in us never actually making the decision to go to God.
I wish you, your nephew, and your nephew’s folks all the best — and will keep a good thought for all of you. If your nephew does decide to be baptized, please let me know when and where that will occur. I would be honored to witness a young man publicly declare he wishes to become better by deepening his relationship to our Tender Creator.
From my heart to yours,