Born again...and again...and again...and again...
“You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.” (Galatians 1:13)
At times, especially when I was a young person, I was left spiritually wanting because I did not have that exact moment it time when I could announce for all to hear that I was “born again.” Perhaps my life was too boring, maybe I needed to go to jail, get a drug habit, or attack the Christian Church in order for me to be adequately, if not glamorously “saved” by the hand of God from the clutches of the devil! It certainly would have made for a more exciting testimony at my friend’s Pentecostal church.
The Apostle Paul had one of those defining moments. As he states in this verse, Paul was a powerful figure in the Jewish religious community. He was formally charged with the task of weeding out apostates. The traditional Jewish community in the first century believed that Christianity was not a sect of Judaism, but a dangerous offshoot, one that our contemporary society might label as a “cult.” Paul believed he was acting as God’s agent when he persecuted this heretical Christian cult. God had better plans for Paul. He knocked him off his horse and called him to be an Apostle in the very faith he was trying to destroy. Now that is a great “born again” story!
This devotional is for all of us boring Christians who have led predictable lives of faith. I believe that “born again” is a term for all human beings. Because of the human propensity for sin, God has responded to us with omnipotent grace and mercy. We need not name the year, month, week, day, hour, minute and second when we were saved by God. The traditional Reformed Christian response would be to say that we were “saved” in our baptism. I would take it even further. I believe we were saved the moment God conceived of humanity, as well as when God created our individual soul. If God created us, and then allowed us to be cast into hell, then God’s creation would be a failure. If God can create a soul worthy of hell, then God’s creation is a failure. If God’s creation failed, then God is imperfect and hence not the one true God. That is blasphemy!
Today, reflect on the times when you’ve felt your faith and personhood have been judged. How did you feel? Did it somehow diminish your soul? Did you question your faith-life? Then consider what their theology says about God? Further, consider what you believe about God. Are there still parts of your belief system - or unconscious fears - that manipulate your mind into believing you must still earn your salvation? Then offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the God who is powerful, humble, and loving enough to offer each one of us the grace and mercy to proclaim us forever acceptable and loved. As my Grandmother was oft heard to say, “I am born again every minute of every day!” I am glad others have had their powerful born again moment, but I am also blessed not to have had the level of pain and divine separation that necessitated their transformative moment. Praise God!