I am fourteen years old, and my grandmother is the one who has raised me…. I have always been required to attend church, and now they want me to get baptized, but I don’t want to do it. I want to wait until I am sure about taking this important step in my life, but she doesn’t understand, so she’s forcing me to do it. I am desperate!

Right now, I know I’m not living the way that I should be, and I feel that, if I get baptized, it will be like playing with the things of God. I would appreciate your advice.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your honesty. It is very brave to admit that you are not living the way that you know you should be. We are pleased that you understand that God knows your true feelings and that He would not be fooled if you were to go through the motions of being baptized. So we commend you for wanting to be honest with God and others.

However, we think that your grandmother is trying to do the right thing. She believes that, if you go through with baptism, you can go to heaven even if you are not living the way that God wants.

As in many other cases, there are two Biblical principles that seem to be impossible for you to follow at the same time. How can you honor and obey your grandmother without having to lie to the church about your true feelings and beliefs?

Some religions teach that the way to heaven is through following all their rituals and traditions. Your grandmother may have been taught that it is more important to practice these religious rituals than it is to believe and worship God from the heart.

We believe, as you do, that neither baptism nor any other ritual will get us into heaven. Instead, the way to heaven is to make sure all our sins are forgiven. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can be forgiven and have a fresh start. The Bible says that “if we confess our sins to God, He can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” (1) So, according to God’s Holy Word, the way to heaven is not by practicing rituals or even by the sacrament of baptism, but rather by confessing our sins to Him, receiving His forgiveness, and having a relationship with Him.

Baptism is the outward demonstration of what has happened in your heart. If nothing has happened in your heart, then baptism is no more than taking a bath with your clothes on.

We recommend that you print out this counsel and take it respectfully to your grandmother. Explain that you don’t want to disobey her, but you also don’t want to lie by being baptized. If your grandmother still insists that you be baptized, then we recommend that you show this counsel to the pastor or to whomever is in charge of the baptism. Explain that you are not yet ready to be baptized, but that you don’t want to disobey your grandmother. The pastor or person in charge will hopefully understand and appreciate your honesty, as we do. But even if you still have to go through with the baptism, you will have explained to everyone that you are doing it as an act of obedience to your grandmother and not as a sign of what you believe.

We wish you well,

1 1 Jn 1:9