WE ARE ALL BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS
Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29 (VU755 John 3:1-17
VU 315, 375, 509, 661
June 11, 2006 by Tad Mitsui
Once I went to a hypnotism show. He led a whole crowd in the theatre through an exercise to divide us into two groups: those who could be hypnotized and those who could not be. I found that I was I was too sceptical and could not easily be hypnotized. So the show went on only with people who could be receptive to suggestions, and I was a spectator. I had a lot of fun watching people making fool of themselves. There are people who are more affectionate and emotional, and others like me who think a lot and are more sceptical. There is nothing wrong with either of them. Today’s story from John tells us that we need both kinds.
A young woman asked me one day in a cafeteria, "Are you born again to Jesus?" I said, "Yes." Then she asked, "When?" I said, "Everyday." She looked sceptical, obviously didn’t accept my answer. But I believe if we believe in the Bible, we all have to be born again Christians. Today’s story tells us that thinking people need to be born again to be more passionate and passionate people need to think more.
In the Gospel according to John, you find the expression "Born Again" first used by Jesus. He said that no one could be his follower and enter the kingdom of God unless one was born again. The story has it that one night a prominent Pharisee leader by the name of Nicodemus came to see Jesus. He said, "Teacher, I know you come from God." Jesus said to him, "If you really want to follow God”s way, you must first be born again."
This really threw Nicodemus off balance. "Born again? I am a grown up man. I can not go back to my mother”s womb." He was a man who used the brain to think. He was a scholar. He was not used to be confronted with things that made no logical sense. But he came face to face with the fundamental fact of faith, that is: faith is about life and life is one with both mind and spirit together. He had to integrate reason with passion to start afresh in the life of faith – to be born again in spirit.
It is not easy for a person who is used to logical thinking to give oneself to emotion and passion. For a thinking person a passionate person looks silly. This is why Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. He was the leader of the scholarly lawyers. He had a hunch that Jesus had to come from God. But his cool reasoning didn’t allow him to jump to such a conclusion. He had to be careful. So he came secretly at night. But faith must involve a whole person. The whole person includes feelings: emotions, and passion, in addition to a cool mind that reasons. Faith requires a whole person. A whole person is a person who draws on both mind and spirit.
There was a paediatrician who became famous in a movement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. She was once asked why she was so emotional when she spoke about the danger of nuclear weapons. The insinuation was that "Emotional women are not reasonable. If you want to be heard, speak like a reasonable man." She answered that ”Yes, I am emotional about this. I am a woman and a mother. If my patient does not get emotional about her child, she is a psychopath. I ”ll refer her to a Psychiatrist."
Faith is not complete if passionate belief does not seek reason. Mind is a God”s creation, as much as spirit is a gift of God. Faith has to grow in mind and spirit. When faith comes into our life through emotion and passion, it has to be fed with reason as it grows. Faith does not stay alive by emotion alone. Sometime those who believe with passionate faith criticize those people who study the Bible scientifically, and examine our beliefs systematically. But those people must be born again to integrate their passion for God with reason and logic. A whole person is one with both passion and reason.
We are all called upon to be born again. Made new today, tomorrow, and many more times being born again. There are some people who can pinpoint the time and the day when he/she was born again. But we are different. For some of us, "born again" is a quiet process that repeats itself many times. I try to live like a new person everyday, refreshed by the belief that God loves me. God will help us with an inspirational or emotionally high experience. After such an experience, we must settle down and think, like a bowl of hot jelly cools and settles in a fridge. At other times, our cool rational belief system has to be shaken, perked up, and refreshed with stirring hymns or by the love of a friend. In either case, we are born again as a new Christian person.