Everybody who reads this has been born. “Duh!” you may say, “that’s obvious.” But the next part, spiritual birth, isn’t as visible. Spiritual birth can be described by many metaphors, one of the most popular of which is what is often translated as a “born again” experience.
How did all this get started? John’s Gospel reveals Jesus meeting a man named Nicodemus, “a leader of the Jews” (John 3:1). Jesus spoke with this curious fellow about spiritual birth, and how it is God’s plan for people to receive this inside/out transformation. Nicodemus didn’t get it at first because he seemed stuck on the literal meaning of birth rather than what Jesus was suggesting.
The biblical story of spiritual rebirth is a reminder that people face two entirely different worlds. The first world is that of the material earth and physical birth, a process over which a person does not have a choice. The second birth, which is what Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand, is spiritual, something over which you have total choice to either promote or suppress. Have you embraced your choice regarding spiritual awareness and rebirth?
Just as in Jesus’ day, people face the painful reminder that spiritual rebirth becomes embroiled in controversy. The contemporary culture wars enjoin battles wherein each side in the conflict proclaims that they only have the proper interpretation about spiritual regeneration. There’s a long history of the term “born again” used in a distorted, narrow sense. Packed tightly with most born again terminology are smoldering heaps of theological rubbish laced with toxic politics and biases borne from fear, ignorance and anger, which twist history, undermine humanity and obscure God’s love.
Both conservatives and progressives might admit that humans have a spiritual nature but they violently disagree about what to do about it, what to believe and how to act. Many progressive churches have almost totally abandoned any form of born again terminology because they’ve thrown-out the spiritual baby with the theological bath water. It’s often mistakenly assumed that anything goes since everything is relative. Alternatively, a major error of the conservatives is that they live by a list of self-serving rules and authoritarian control. Such an approach devolves into sorting people into black/white categories based on who does or does not observe a strict list of “do this” and “don’t do that” commands. Violate their never-ending litmus tests of personal morality and you’ll be dismissed as a hell-bent sinner worthy of persecution even in this life.
Rather than get stuck in extremist ideological muck, spiritual seekers are challenged to vercome the excesses and limitations of the polarized cultural positions. No one group owns spiritual health, and if anyone compels you otherwise then you can challenge such faulty thinking by bold proclamation: God’s love sets you free from control by institutions and traditions; God liberates you from whatever shackles you. For spiritual health you can accept Jesus’ analogy of being born again for what it is, a provocative metaphor (among many possible) describing the beauty and miracle of forgiveness, salvation and the life-saving mercy & grace that can only come from God’s spirit. Have you embraced such redemption or is someone or something interfering?
Spiritual birth often means that a person has been renewed and made aware of spiritual realities, the chief of which is that in Judeo-Christian terms we can become followers of “The Way,” the original name for Christianity found in the Bible’s Book of Acts (19:9; 23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). Followers of God’s Way therefore accept entrance into an intentional spiritual life yearned for and accepted through God’s forgiveness and reconciliation through love, which is the Almighty’s essence. You become true to God when you are spiritually translated into God’s Kingdom, a mystery that is both a present reality and a future hope.
In his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus described God’s spirit as wind, yet you can’t see the wind. There is a sense of awe-inspiring glory surrounding spiritual birth. Spirit, like the wind, blows where it wills and is not easily controlled, domesticated or predicted. So how do you know that spirit is with you? You can tell when the wind is blowing because it is the effect of a spirit that alerts you to its presence. You can sense God at work when you are spiritually reborn. Once properly activated, your joy rises like a whirlwind and your spirit thrives amid the interconnectedness of life (including your spirit-to-spirit relationship with God).
Have you been born of the spirit in some profound manner, perhaps as Jesus described? Being born again is more than a battle cry from fiery fundamentalists hurling thick black Bibles. Being born again is also more than confirmation, more than theological correctness, more than church membership or passively sitting in church pews. When God’s love, mercy and grace enliven you then your attitude and behavior are transformed. In this way you become a radically new creature born from above. Does this begin to describe what you are willing to experience and promote?
Become open to and aware of God and then deliberately, consciously accept what God has for you. Hunger and thirst for God’s spiritual winds to cast a reviving rush of new life. Embrace spiritual rebirth and you’ll experience a life of holistic wellbeing not otherwise possible from poison politics or sick religion.