But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of [humans], but of God. – John 1:12-13 (NRSV)
Early in my ministry a group of angry church members confronted me. They demanded to know if I had been “born again.” They weren’t bad people, but they were frightened. They were asking if I was in their camp and one of them. “Born again” sounded like a slogan or a code, a way of saying who was “in” and who was not.
When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, a 13-year-old girl from the eastern side somehow made her way to a Christian community in West Berlin and found shelter there. Several years before, this child had been sold into prostitution by her mother.
One day in that Christian community there was a baptism. The pastor poured water into the font and as he did so, he spoke of being “born again from above.” Sitting near the back, the 13-year-old girl listened to his words. After the service, she went to the pastor who stood near the font. Shyly she asked, “Can I be born again?” For her, the words were not a formula or a slogan. They were not code words. They were truth and life. The answer was, “Yes.”
Because of the first experience in my ministry, the words “born again” were pretty much lost on me until a friend told me the story of the second, the 13-year-old German girl. Her naïve question to the pastor somehow seems so much closer to the truth of the invitation and powerful promise found in these early verses of John. “To all who receive him, he gives power to become children of God, born not of the will of man, but of God.”
I’m your child, Lord, while I run this race. And I don’t want to run this race in vain. Amen.