I had an interesting conversation with some friends over the weekend on the topic on the topic of baptism. We have been working with some of the youth at our church for the past few years in Sabbath school and afternoon Bible study. We were debating on what it takes to be "ready" for baptism.
Our church has previously had a history of "premature" baptisms, where people were baptized either didn't fully understand what they got into or still had sins or things in their lives they couldn't let go of at the time of their baptism. As a result, quite a few of these people ended up leaving the church altogether.
A couple of my friends actually got re-baptied several years later beause they realized they were prematurely baptized and despised their first baptism experience. Hence, they believed most of the young people in the group are not ready to be baptized and need more lessons.
While my friends make several valid points, I urged caution against the other extreme - waiting until people are "perfect" to get baptized. If that is the standard, then that day will never come.
I suppose there is a fine line in pressuring people to get baptized when they do not feel ready yet versus giving those who are already ready but hesitant a little push to get baptized. In my view, we should always encourage people to get baptized when they have received enough truth. After all, didn't the Ethiopian eunuch ask Phillip in the book of Acts to baptize him after learning and accepting that Jesus Christ is the Messiah?
Ultimately, though, baptism is a choice that the individual must make on his or her own. It is not that you have reached a certain "spiritual level" and it is time to get baptized. Baptism is a symbolic gesture that you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you sincerely want him in your life and you want to have a relationship with Him. In getting baptized, you want to start a walk with Jesus wherever that takes you and the church you get baptized at is where you will begin your walk with the help and fellowship of your brothers and sisters in Christ at that church.
I do not believe you have to be perfect to be baptized. I even believe it is okay that there are certain truths you may be struggling with (lifestyle and eating, for example), but you trust Jesus to work on you and guide you to accept those truths. Jesus receives you as you are, but He does not leave you there.
Baptism is not an end after you have spent enough time learning church doctrines and empirical truth, but rather it signals the beginning of a new race where you give your life to Jesus and enter into the field as one of His laborers, growing and helping others to grow as you share with others what you have been taught. You may stumble and fall at times, but you are always looking and moving forward to Jesus.
Bible verses to consider: