Chapter 14–Born from above
“How is it possible for an adult to be born?” Nicodemus asked. “It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?” (CEB John 3:4). We today might like to smile a bit condescendingly at Nicodemus’ apparent lack of spiritual perception. But even after more than two millennia, the Christian idea of new birth is still not readily clear or easily understood. That’s because we Christians, in spite of our doctrinal beliefs, often stubbornly cling to the natural process of things just as much as Nicodemus did.
What Jesus Christ does, what God likely sent him to do, is to lift our gaze, to raise our eyes to see the person God intended us to be, the one created in His image. Being “born anew,” says Jesus, isn’t something to be “surprised” about but something to gratefully embrace (3:7). As Jesus explains to Nicodemus, “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). To be “born of the flesh” is to believe we’re defined by the limited, genetic construction of our physical bodies. To be “born of the Spirit” or “born from above” is to embrace the larger, more vibrant consciousness of life that God has been creating in us from the beginning.
And that thought leads to another inspiring perspective. Both Strong’s and Vines, whose translations of the Greek offer born “anew” and born “from above,” open the door to another possible translation, born “from the beginning.” In the beginning God created humankind in His image, according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26). And, since the Creator of the universe would not be permanently constrained or contained by a physical form, it makes sense that those created in His image probably aren’t going to be either.
If we thoughtfully look inside our heart, we’ll realize that this greater individuality of who we are has always been there. We, and all human beings, have always had a unique personhood, something separate from what the world sees. As it says in James, the “good gift” and “perfect gift” of who we are is ours “from above,” flowing into us from our Creator, “the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Being born “anew,” as Jesus offers, means opening ourselves to the continuing heritage that we’ve always had. And that is an open-ended and inspiring journey.
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