Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Born again

If there is a real God, I can guarantee you that He is going to have a very definite personality and nature—definite, mind you, but not necessarily definable, not as we would have it, anyway. That’s the strange thing about Him that irks some people and gets others in a good deal of trouble. The other thing about Him, if He exists, is that He is not going to fit into our nice, little systems and formularies any more than the wind can be caught in a sack. The only human being who even comes close to being able to speak for Him (because this person declares Himself to be His Son and has an astounding curriculum vitae to prove it) says things like, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

See the kingdom of God? Be born again (or ‘from above,’ as His words also mean)? This is obviously not something a man can just sit down and decide to do, or reach by mere thinking. This God, if He exists, is not like the capricious gods of Olympus or of the great Hindu epics. He doesn’t play games with us, doesn’t bait and switch, doesn’t taunt and tantalize us with riddles. He speaks plainly—that is, if Jesus (the Son of God I was quoting) is who He says He is, and if His words are true. He says things that at first hearing don’t make sense. And why should they? There’s no reason in the world to assume that this God is ‘just like us.’ We’ve heard that we’re ‘made in His image,’ but if this is true, it still doesn’t help us know Him, or at least know much about Him. Can you draw many conclusions about what a man is by looking at a statue, if you’ve never met one?

Here’s why educated people cannot wrap their brains around the kind of God I am talking about, one that has a definite personality and nature.

They see Him boxed and bagged up, dollified and denatured, defined and dogmatized, used and abused, and flagrantly fantasized by people who say they believe in Him, know all about Him, and want to make sure that you do too. Some of these people hold out threats, that if you won’t accept Him on their terms, you’re a goner, you’re hatched, your goose is cooked, hey man, you’re just plain damned. It leaves a nasty taste in one’s mouth, especially if you’ve studied and experienced life as it is, and have come to expect that if there is a God, He has to be at least as real as that.

So if people think He might or must exist, they try to find out about Him on their own, but usually this gets them no closer than believing that the universe exists, that it functions by means of unalterable laws, that it possibly has no beginning or end; but that somehow falls short of any human expectations. We know we’re here, and we want to know why, and if possible, we want to know if we’re wanted, or just ‘cosmic dust’ blown into a shape by chance, soon to be dissipated, the sooner the better.

There’s a book called the Bible that’s the fearsome foe of all rational and modern men, and women too, since they now know they’re the equal of the less fair sex. Without ever actually looking into it, most people find themselves opposing this Book and its supposed teachings, based solely on what is talked about in the marketplace of ideas. They find it preposterous to believe that if there is a God, He would let Himself be limited to revealing His personality (if He has one) and nature (He’d better have one) in only one ‘holy book.’

Sometimes, either on the sly, or with a mocking attitude and audience, a modern man decides to ‘give God a chance to explain Himself’ and reads passages from this Book. What guides him or her in the selection of passages is often whatever is currently being talked down and mocked in the world of ideas. Going into the reading with a foregone conclusion, a ‘guilty unless proved innocent’ mindset, at once any chance of meeting the God who says He can be found there is derailed.

It doesn’t help matters that all the while the reader’s mind is seething with reports of the excesses of religious fanatics of all stripes, but particularly of Jews and Christians. How desperate it all must seem, if He is watching, to this God who really exists but whom we keep pushing away from us any way we can, unbelievers and believers.

Back to my original statement, if there is a real God, I can guarantee you that He’s going to have a very definite personality and nature and, if He exists, He’s not going to fit into our nice, little systems and formularies any more than the wind can be caught in a sack.

Why would I say this?
Well, because this is the God that I have come to know, and because I know Him I can believe in Him. It’s not knowledge of things I’m talking about, it’s not knowledge of teachings or even history, though I believe that both of these reflect His personality and nature, yet they are not He.

Sorry, friends, but it’s not the great religious edifices you have built up over the centuries and that you’re still rushing to build, saying, ‘if we build them, people will come.’ It’s not the institutions either.

But the real God, heavier than the weight of the whole universe and more solid, so perfectly present and aware of everything that moves that even the scientists can’t count or size, unimaginably involved as the ground of consciousness of every living creature, forgetting nothing, never being exhausted nor diluted by being spread so widely, being so unutterably One that no plurality within Him divides His singularity, yes, He has a very definite personality, but it puts all our attempts at definition to deepest shame.

When we enter His presence, all definitions die away before His face. We are known, we know, and now we believe. This is not a ‘religious experience.’ It is man coming face to face on the field of honesty with Him who alone is, the Being. Where you go from there, what you do with it, is all that matters. Now everything makes sense, everything can hardly wait to make sense to you, and now you know for sure that it is He who is, who says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

1 comment:

Aunt Melanie said...

Honesty, like trust, is a rare quality. To be born again can take a lifetime--there is so much junk to peel away because we honestly trusted dishonest people. When things start to make sense--I think that is probably grace and we can only be thankful.