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Born again, born free

"Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." John 3.3

The concept of being "born again" has become confused through its association with insensitive evangelism and the American Far Right. Yet we cannot abandon it because it belongs at the heart of Jesus proclamation of the gospel: the Good News that we can enter a new relationship with God and with creation; a relationship which exists within a new dimension of life that never dies and is altogether good. But we must be born again...

To understand what Jesus means we must go back to the beginning. In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) Adam and Eve make the fatal mistake of disobeying God and then thinking they can hide (literally "cover up"). In the process they lose their place in the garden and, with it, their ability to "see" God. Indeed they are alienated from him. As their descendants (for they are presented as prototype humans), we inherit that alienation and the inability to see God that accompanies it. This is what Isaiah and Jesus mean when they refer to "seeing and hearing but never perceiving" (Isaiah 6.9 & Mark 4.12). Our physical senses of sight and hearing might be perfect while we remain deaf and blind to God - because he can only be perceived spiritually.

So being born again is what happens when our spiritual eyes and ears are opened. It is the inheritance of all who put their trust in Jesus, whose death and resurrection reverse the alienation from God which Adam and Eve's disobedience caused, and who receive the Holy Spirit, through which the same power that raised Jesus from death gets to work in our lives. This is why we describe baptism (or "baptism and confirmation" for those who practice infant baptism) as being "born again of water and of the Spirit".

Our spiritual rebirth sets us free, not in the superficial sense of doing whatever we like, but it the much deeper, richer sense of being delivered from ignorance and death - in order to know God and share in the eternal life of Jesus. We shall never deserve it and we cannot buy it. It is the free gift of God, which Jesus came into the world to purchase with his own life and which he continues to offer freely through the Holy Spirit. If you have not yet received this gift or if you are not sure, simply ask God. He has promised not to turn away any who come to him earnestly. He may respond immediately or he may make you wait - not out of malice but in order to bring you to the place you need to be, in order to be sufficiently receptive. Just don't ever give up on him because he will never abandon you!



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