Conflict of Conscience
After a Sunday service there was a knock at my door. A farmer’s wife entered.
‘Good afternoon Pastor…Pastor, I want to ask you something. It bothers me a lot…’ The young woman paused a moment then looked me straight in the face and said, ‘You baptised that infant today…During the baptismal ceremony you said…That part about the new birth – how doe it go?’
From memory I repeated the well known words, ‘The God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has begotten you again of water and the Spirit…’ Do you mean that?
‘Yes Pastor. That’s the part. Surely by these words you said that the child was born again today through baptism. Did you not?’
‘That’s how it is written in the liturgy. I have to read it like that. It is part of the order of the service.’ I was trying to evade the issue.
The quiet, serious woman before me blushed a little with emotion and asked:
‘But is it so? Is that true? Was that little child born again when you sprinkled the water on it today? We – perhaps I ought to say I – I have experienced something different. Only now have I been born again, now, when I accepted the Lord. Is that not so?’
She looked at me with troubled eyes for a moment. She could see that the pastor was at a loss for an answer. Then she rose, excused herself and left. But I stayed behind shaken and perplexed. By my ordination vow I am bound to proclaim in preaching and teaching baptismal regeneration. What would happen if it became impossible for me to keep the vow?
A few days later I stood before the candidates for confirmation. A serious looking boy was reciting what he had learnt. Steadily and simply he repeated the ancient words:
‘Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil and gives eternal salvation to all who believe according to the words and promises of God…’ The innocent eyes of a child looked at me and waited. But I could not speak. The words were still ringing in my ears.
‘Is it baptism that works that in the believer?’ Does a newborn child believe according to the words and promises of God…?’
I cannot remember whether I ever finished that confirmation class. But one thing I knew, I could no longer shelve the matter. An answer simply had to be found. Once again the question of my official position arose. Could I remain as pastor of this congregation? But what would be the alternative?
During those days I learnt to cry to God. Only He could answer me and reveal His will. This He did gradually, for, deep down, I withstood the light. In consequence I had to pass through much distress and fear. There gnawed at my soul the terrible feeling that I and my family would have to leave the parsonage. But God, who is faithful, led us gently. He brought us with tender love and compassion into an ever growing revelation of His ways.