This last Sunday, we were treated to the Gospel reading in which Christ is baptized by St. John the Baptist. It’s a compelling passage, especially because it focuses our attention on the purpose and meaning of baptism. The rambling, confused homily that we received on this topic (from an earnest-seeming seminarian whom I don’t know at all) sparked a later debate in the Lu household on a common error in the Church today. Why are Christians constantly stressing their solidarity with the rest of the world by claiming that “we are all children of God”?I suppose some see this as a Christianized version of the sentiment that “all men are brothers.” Or maybe they just want to emphasize that God loves everyone, and that every life is precious. Which is true. All humans are made in God’s image, and Christ’s grace is available to all. Nevertheless, we aren’t all children of God. It’s actually quite important that people understand why this is.
...What is the process by which we become God’s adoptive children? According to Church doctrine and tradition, it is baptism. Baptism is the door to Christian life, and the means by which we are grafted into God’s family. When we are baptized, we are freed from the sentence (though not the residual effects) of original sin. No longer condemned under the law, we become cross-bearers, and heirs to Christ’s kingdom.Seen in this light, we understand the urgency of the Great Commission. Charity means in part desiring what is best for your neighbor. And what could be better than heaven? It's imperative that we evangelize in accordance with our gifts and station in life.
Christianity without conversion is one of the more destructive ideas that's ravaged the Church over the last few decades. If we're all children of God already, then why do we need to disturb the peace with our missionary efforts? Religion, like politics, is something you're not supposed to speak of in polite company. If everyone on earth is already one of Rahner's "anonymous Christians," then we may as well pack it in and tell people that Islam, Buddhism, paganism, or atheism is just as good as Christianity so long as you try to be a good person.
We're born in God's image and likeness but we're not born as his children. That only happens through baptism, period.