Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 68: Born Again, part 2
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 68: Born Again, part 2

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Last week, we considered being born again as being new creations in Christ, stripped of the human desire to victimize scapegoats in order to maintain communal peace and replaced with a desire to mimic Jesus Christ, who himself mimicked God’s love. This relates to the recent essay on the forgiveness of debts (part 64). We can now see that, as new creations in Christ, we don’t need to derive our self-esteem from how others regard us. If someone humiliates us, we don’t need to avenge their honor-debt to us. We may forgive them because our sense of worth comes from our participating in the body of Christ, which has nothing to do with worldly possessions or status among humans.

Rev. Paul Nuechterlein has noted that there are two ways of doing theology (trying to understand God): accusatory or forgiving. The human pattern is accusatory – we accuse certain individuals, whom Girard called “scapegoats,” for the fears, resentments, and disorders in our communities. I think that Jesus showed that God’s way is forgiving. Upon reflection, one sees that it takes great faith to believe that the path to peace is not by force but rather by love and forgiveness. From this perspective, being born again is not simply a matter of rejecting the world’s numerous other religions and choosing to follow Christ. It is a matter of believing in the redemptive power of love, which goes against human practices from the foundation of human civilization. Love generates compassion, and compassion undermines the human tendency to victimize individuals for the benefit of the masses.

Does being born again mean that we no longer sin? Paul lamented, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19) Though Paul was evidently discouraged by his shortcomings, he acted in a spirit of repentance. Such a born again person naturally desires to go forth in Christ and sin no more. Being born again should give us the desire to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Though we always fall far short of God’s perfection, being reborn should transform us externally as well as internally. Of true prophets, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) Therefore, Jesus said, “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Many who claim to be reborn are false prophets whose examples one should not follow. For example, false prophets have always claimed that God wants righteous violence against vulnerable individuals, including minorities, children, homosexuals, and animals. Often, God’s wrath is a convenient excuse for defending self-serving, merciless practices and institutions. Those genuinely reborn in Christ seek peace and healing and have no desire to participate in causing unnecessary harm to any of God’s creation.

I don’t regard being born again as an either/or proposition. Jesus said, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) The sacrament of baptism prepares one for the experience of rebirth in Christ, but the experience itself involves the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, sometimes we’re in Christ, and sometimes we’re not.

When we experience our faith as born-again in Christ, we don’t become perfect, but we do aim for perfection. Sometimes, like Paul, we may be discouraged by our limitations. When we fall short, I think our faith reminds us that, while we may feel disappointment, we should not feel shame, because God forgives all of us.

Go on to: Part 69: Forgiveness: A New Law Written on Their Hearts
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