Colossians 2:6-19/ Psalm 85/ Luke 11:1-13
Being One With Christ
Being Born Again
When you hear the words “born again,” What comes into your mind? I immediately think of conservative Christians. They are also known as evangelical Christians, but I refuse to call them evangelical because there is nothing evangelical about what they believe in and how they live.
The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word that means “good news,” which, in the Christian context, refers to the gospel of Jesus. Since conservative Christians focus on personal salvation and don’t actually follow the teachings and examples of Jesus that requires us to selflessly love others, they shouldn’t be called evangelical.
But since no one is perfect and free from the temptation to be selfish and self-satisfied, this is something we should all humbly and carefully try to avoid, conservative and progressive Christians alike. Today, we will debunk the myth of being born again and reflect on what it means and what it entails to be born again.
Jesus Teaches How to Pray
We start with today’s gospel text. Jesus teaches his followers how to pray. This prayer is the short version of the Lord’s Prayer. The longer version that we say together comes from the Gospel of Matthew.
The Lord’s Prayer contains everything we should be praying for; this is a model for every prayer that is compatible with the gospel of Jesus. It has two parts. The first part is about praising God and giving thanks. The second part is about asking for our wishes, but notice that what we should ask God has nothing to do with our selfish desires.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that we should ask God for our necessities, forgiveness for our sins, ability to love and forgive others, and God’s protection and guidance from the evil ways. And as we have already learned, sin is both doing something wrong and not doing something good that we are supposed to do. We are to avoid pursuing our selfish desires.
Ask, And You Will Find?
After teaching his followers how to pray, Jesus says something that so many Christians misunderstand and abuse in their lives.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” It sounds like, if we pray persistently and long enough, God will give us anything. “Okay, you can have it. Stop badgering me.”
But this is not what this saying means. Pay attention to how Jesus ends this teaching: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” We cannot just ask for anything and expect to get it. What God gives us is the Holy Spirit, who will move our hearts and guide us to emulate Jesus in our lives, which is the opposite of our selfish desires.
This is why Christians should read the Bible closely and thoroughly, or else, they will misunderstand the messages and cherry pick only what they want to hear from the Bible. The Holy Spirit changes us to be more like Jesus, whose life was driven by empathy and the yearning for justice.
God Who Gives New Life
Psalm 85 speaks of God who forgives us and gives us new life. This steadfast love that God shows us challenges us to extend it to others in realizing a world of peace and justice. With the love and grace of God that we have received, it is only right to pay it forward and share it with others.
This concept is expressed in a Christian language that we are familiar with in Colossians. For us Christians, receiving a new life happens through our baptism in which we symbolically die and are raised from the dead through faith.
Paul teaches that those who received new lives through Christ should live in Christ. We live in Christ and Christ lives in us. Christ lives THROUGH us. If Christ lives in us, we cannot live by our selfish desires because the Spirit of Christ will give us compassion for others. If Christ lives in us, we will be influenced by the Spirit of God’s reign and want all God’s people to live in peace and justice.
What It Means to Have a New Life
Receiving a new life, or being born again, is not about personal salvation, which a lot of Christians believe to mean going to heaven after they die. In fact, if one claims to be born again and doesn’t care about the suffering of others, that means one is not truly born again.
Christianity is not a personal religion. We are taught to live among people and work towards achieving just relationships for all. Receiving a new life comes with a lifestyle of love and equality, and not forgetting the Christian responsibility of humbly loving and serving one another.
Having a new life means being one with Christ, who guides us to live like Jesus did. Therefore, let us daily be born again by accepting God’s love and joyfully go out into the world to share this love with all God’s people. Let us dedicate our lives to works of peace and justice as it is God’s will. May the Spirit of Christ be with us always and be our guide. Amen.