I so appreciate Kayla McClurg’s approach to the concept of “born again” that I can’t help but quote the entire lesson as it appears in the Inward/Outward blog from The Church of the Savior. I have heard many Christians worry because they can’t remember a “conversion experience. Some sound as if they feel cheated out of an experience that so many others have had. Others seem concerned that their salvation isn’t assured because they don’t remember that defining moment.
What follows is what McClurg says about being “born again” after reflection on John 3: 1-7:
“Haven’t you wondered how the idea of being “born again” became a litmus test to label people as “inside” or “outside” of God’s grace? I see no evidence that Jesus would have intended it. The Pharisees and other good religious people know all about litmus tests. They know how to keep track of “in” and “out,” so I don’t think Jesus would give them yet another way to separate themselves from others. When one of the Pharisees, a man named Nicodemus, comes to Jesus at night, he asks what it means, this being born again. Not to trap Jesus, it seems, but from a sincere desire to understand, and Jesus tries to explain it as simply as he can.
“How can anyone be born again?” Nicodemus asks. “Can we enter our mother’s womb a second time?” Jesus sees his thirst and breaks it down something like this: there is a birth, Jesus says, that brings us into this time-space realm, a birth which happens in the flesh; and then there is a second birth in and by the Spirit. The first birth opens our physical eyes; the second birth opens the eyes of our hearts, and we “see the kingdom of God.” Awakening to this realm, within us and among us, sets us on a quest. Like Nicodemus, we likely will have to do some exploring even in the dark to gain greater light. This questing, seeking spirit is both a catalyst and a result of the second birth.
To be “born again” is not to be set up on a shelf, separated from whatever we call worldly. It is to wake up to the Grand Mystery that is right here with us, nearer than we knew. It is to know what we will never be able fully to know, a presence that blooms and wanes and revives and recedes and grows throughout our lives. To use such a freely given and chosen gift for purposes of division—wearing the name proudly, like a badge of personal achievement, or shunning others who identify as such—is to disrespect it. He did not come to condemn any of us, but to show us the awakened life, which is the only life ultimately safe for souls to be born in, again and again.
Apprentices of Jesus understand the concept of “having the eyes of our heart ” continually as we walk the path of transformation. And we know that if we live into this gift, sharing our awakened lives with others, Christ in us can transform the world.