Pastoral Series

Reconciliation: Born again

Reconciliation: Born again

Last Thursday, we looked at the way ego digs out a wide canyon between us and God, and between us and other people.  But it’s not that you are inherently wicked.  You were born and made by God as quite noble, in God’s very image.  That image gets mixed up, misdirected, and twisted into an unrecognizable thing in need of radical repair.

This healing, this fixing of you so you can be one with God and connect with even strange people, is something God’s grace does in you.  Jesus spoke of this miracle as being “born again” (John 3), and Paul framed this for us as “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5). What can this mean? Nicodemus, baffled by Jesus’ “born again” idea, asked “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?”

If you’ve lived at some distance from God, then to be reconciled, to get close to God is such a relief, so merciful, so refreshing, that it really is a new beginning, a rediscovery of your self you lost somewhere.  It takes quite a few forms, but a key one has to do with seeing.  Paul explained this: “From now on, regard no one from a human point of view.”  We begin to look in the mirror, and at everyone else, from God’s perspective.  “Humans look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  And the Lord sees that image of God in each person; the Lord sees with merciful eyes.

Difference isn’t so scary to the person who sees as God sees.  Conflict even takes on a hopeful look. Scott Peck once asked one of his psychiatric patients why she stayed in her marriage; she said, “For the friction.”  Friction seems negative – but on closer inspection, friction can produce a spark and then warmth, and friction polishes.  Maybe if we seek out and stick with some friction with those who are different, we will be polished to the point that we can mirror God clearly in the world.  My daily prayer asks, “May my very life be the vision of Thyself.”

Maybe when fear bedevils us, or when conflict bubbles up, instead of running or fighting, we pivot, join hands with the other person, and solve our common problem of fear together.  We can even do this with God; repentance is giving up the battle with God and turning with God in God’s direction.

Native Americans say, “We teach our children to see when there is nothing to see, and to listen where there is nothing to hear.”  When there seems to be no hope among people, or for our nation – or when there appears to be nothing between you and God, we begin by seeing, and listening – and if we get quiet enough and look carefully enough, there really is hope.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

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