I don’t like the Christianese term born again.”
I had to laugh when in Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott relates a story while in a plane, and a man reading a “hard-core right-wing paranoid anti-Semitic homophobic misogynistic propaganda” book about the Apocalypse (I think she was referring to a Left Behind novel) asked her, “Are you born again?”
What was he really asking her? Are you a conservative evangelical Christian? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you walked up at an altar call?
I don’t know what he was really asking her – but Anne Lamott does call herself born again. “I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian…I’m a believer, a convert. I’m probably about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus-fish on the back of my car, although I first want to see if the application or stickum in any way interferes with my lease agreement.”
I still am not comfortable with the lingo. It smacks of conversative-right-wing-evangelicalism, which is not where I am finding myself these days. Nicodemus cames to Jesus in the night. He told him basically that “we know who you are. You have to have come from God. We know.” Jesus replies with: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of god unless he is born again.” Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “You’re absolutely right. take it from me: unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to – to god’s kingdom.” So…Jesus talked about being “born again.” Jesus seems to say, “No, you really can’t fully know that, you really can’t fully know who I am unless you are reborn. unless you have a 2nd birth, a rebirth.”
So the question is: what does born again mean anyway? I tend to think that when people use the phrase today, they aren’t using the same meaning that perhaps, Jesus meant when he used the phrase. Jesus says that if we are to fully know him, to fully know about the Kingdom of God, then we have to be born again: to have a new birth, a new life, a new arrangement of beliefs, a new set of priorities, a new calling (to seek after God’s kingdom), a new vision of what it means to be human, a new realization that we are spiritual beings…
Being born again does not mean you sign your name at the end of a 4-pg tract. One is not simply born again because they walked forward for an altar call at a weekend tent-revival. Could that be the “beginning” – strong>the moment of conception – the point at which the birth-process begins?
Yes. But that’s just the beginning. There are 9 months left. There is a huge process of birthing that they have to go through in order to fully be born again…but we have relegated born again to a one-time deal. Something that can just…happen…and then you’re good to go.
What does it mean to be born again?