Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, ESV)
This is such an odd saying, and for many of us we have grown up with it and it still doesn’t make sense. In John’s Gospel Jesus talks in images, like being “born again” (or “born from above”), and his ‘I AM” sayings, “I am the Bread of Life; I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”…and his followers are often confused. I can only imagine what it would be like to hear Jesus say these things and then just move on down the road, walking with him and talking with him with your head spinning, not understanding but knowing there is something there, something undefinable but somehow solid, “more real than the air we breathe” as poet Rich Mullins sang.
We don’t understand our beginnings, we don’t understand where they’ll lead. In the Gospel account, Jesus is approached by one of the religious leaders, Nicodemus, to find out more about him, and probably to be near him. Jesus is a magnetic presence, and later in this same gospel he said that when he was lifted up he would draw all people to him. (I’m not giving all the Biblical references, and if you look them up it will be good for you!)
After all these years of reading this passage, just this week it hit me that if someone is born again, there is a new life beginning. From being born we have to grow up.
And so I thought about that with our recovery process, about how we have to adjust to new beginnings when we stop using alcohol and other drugs, how we have to begin a new life, for many of us far different from the one we had been living. We may and probably will have to change our friends, change our habits, change our social life. We will probably encounter folks who do not want to support us in this new life-choosing decision, telling us we are probably over-reacting or maybe be aggressive and tell us we are weak, that we “just can’t handle it.” You know what’s been said to you. These things have been said to me.
In AA we have such a wonderful system in place to grow into our new life. Get a sponsor, work the steps, go to meetings. A sponsor is someone you can trust, someone you confide in, someone who will guide you, teach you, set you straight when you need it. The steps make you admit over and over that you have lived a life of “self-will run riot” and it has cost a great deal, and you are on a life saving mission to save your own life. And early on you are encouraged to sponsor someone else, which will strengthen you. We even celebrate a new sobriety birthday, marking months and years.
In the church, we may have that rebirth experience and most of us don’t have a sponsor, don’t have the steps, and just come back to church. And we drift away. When we are born again we need to be cared for as we grow.
In the last several years we have been involved with the Inspire Movement (inspiremovement.org) working to help make disciples of Jesus of folk who are interested and teaching them to make disciples of others. We need to grow in our faith in Christ, we need to have someone close to us that cares for us and that we care for. In Inspire we have “house fellowships” of up to 20 people who share a meal and time together and “fellowship bands”, groups of three or four who lean in to deeper relationship. In each other there is a central question: Where have you see God in your life?
If this seems interesting to you, check out the website, or contact me. We need to grow up.