What does it really mean to be “born again”?
“I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was born again on May 12, 2005….”
I just made that up, but many Christians have such a specific experience of conversion at a particular moment in their lives. Episcopalians, however, tend to see conversion as an ongoing process – a long journey of turning toward God. Which is it?
Today’s Gospel about Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus doesn’t specify the duration of “being born again” or “born from above,” only that it must happen. Nicodemus is a Jewish leader, a Pharisee no less! Yet he sees God working in Jesus, and comes to see the young rabbi under cover of darkness. Jesus responds, “Truly, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Nicodemus mistakes Jesus’ point and questions how anybody could be physically born again. That’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is saying that conversion to God is first and foremost about seeing. In order to see the kingdom of God, in order to see God’s hand at work in the world about us, we must in some way die to our old life and be born again of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe it’s like finally opening your eyes after having had your eyes bandaged up due to a terrible accident. Or like putting one a pair of glasses and seeing clearly after years of diminishing eyesight. Things look different. The world is shot through with the wonder of God. The beauty of the earth and of the faces of people is overwhelming.
This new sight, this rebirth in the Spirit, is available to all of us, right now. Open the eyes of your heart, and look at the world as God sees it. JBM