“Clapping After Baptisms”Categories: Meditations
Several weeks ago, my brother and friend Dan DeGarmo wondered out loud online why any Christian would have a problem with the congregation clapping after a baptism that occurred during a regular time of assembly. In response, several brethren took the time to explain to him why they, personally, had a problem with clapping after baptisms. The conversation went (downhill?) from there.
For my part, clapping after baptisms strikes me as a classic de minimis issue. No, clapping after baptisms does not appear in the New Testament, but neither do a number of other minor practices. It is true that we have houses to eat and drink in, but just about all of our church buildings have water fountains in them too. Such things don’t have significant impact on our obedience to Christ whether we do them or not.
So too with clapping after baptisms. Most churches only infrequently have baptisms when the church is assembled (I wish it happened much more often!), and the clapping afterward simply isn’t a meaningful event in the spiritual life of the church. It’s an expression of joy on the part of the congregation that isn’t quite so steeped in Restoration-Movement tradition.
I myself don’t clap (being very steeped in Restoration-Movement tradition), but when I’m the one performing the baptism, I tend to hug the baptizee (Wet post-baptism hugs are the best!). There are hugs in the New Testament (though not after a baptism, so far as I recall), but that’s not why I do it. I don’t think deeply about it. I do it because I’m happy.
I don’t see a reason for the analysis to go farther than that. People who want to take it farther than that probably also have thought deeply about the spiritual implications of water fountains.
Having said that, I think that by far the bigger issue is how we Romans 14 our way through post-baptism applause. Do brethren who aren’t OK with clapping get judgy in the direction of brethren who are? Conversely, do brethren who clap shake their heads with contempt at those who oppose clapping? We do have relevant Scripture on this point, and both of those attitudes are problematic.
Rather, both clappers and non-clappers alike should learn to bear with and love those who disagree with them. Would you like to clap, but you know it bugs that old dude three rows up? Maybe it would be better to abstain and content yourself with ultra-Scriptural hugs after services are over. Are you anti-clapping, but you worship with a bunch of folks who applaud? Maybe it would be better to focus on their joy (and the joy of the angels in heaven) rather than on your unhappiness with the form that joy takes.
Surely, in an era so filled with divisiveness and strife, we don’t need to generate division and strife out of an issue like this! In Christ Jesus neither clapping nor not clapping counts for anything, but only faith working through love.