Have you ever played laser tag? I remember my first experience – it seemed like all of my friends had played for years, and I was the last one to join the party. I remember the anticipation of playing the game, the excitement of being handed my first laser (unfortunately, no lightsabres available), and the uncertainty of what strategy I should use to win (or simply avoid losing every game!).
The central part of playing laser tag, of course, is to actually put on the special vest equipped with targets for others to hit. No vest, no laser tag. I could talk about laser tag all I wanted, I could say whose team I wanted to be on, and I could even get dressed in all black clothes so no one could see me. But until I put on the vest and stepped into the dark room filled with passageways and hiding spots, I wasn’t playing laser tag, and I certainly wasn’t part of any laser tag team.
Being baptized is like putting on the vest and playing for the team. As the vest identifies me with the game of laser tag, baptism identifies me with the person of Jesus.
And just as there is a difference between being a laser tag watcher and being a laser tag player, being a Jesus watcher is nowhere near as exciting and meaningful as being a Jesus follower. Yes, a Jesus watcher can have a personal relationship with him and serve him, but only a Jesus follower experiences the thrill of being exclusively identified with him!
Maybe Paul had that in mind when he wrote that we may “live a new life” because of our baptism (Romans 6:4). Of course, life with Jesus is “new” for everyone who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, who has confessed sin and acknowledged who Jesus is. Baptism, however, moves “new life” to another level as you or I take a visible stand for Jesus, and become part of a local team of other Jesus followers (a.k.a. a church). Baptism is a symbolic act that says to everyone, “I am a Jesus follower!”
For a number of years in my life, I was a Jesus watcher, rather than a Jesus follower. As your children grow into maturity, teach them about “putting on the vest” of baptism to identify for others that they are fully on Jesus’ team. Life will never be the same!
–Mark Wessner is lead pastor at Westwood MB Church, Prince George, B.C.
For more information about baptism, check out Baptism, a curriculum for ages 6–12, by Laura Kalmar.