who, according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 NASB
Born again – The Greek word here is anagennesas. This word comes from ana (again) and gennao (to beget). This is a word that Peter made up. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament. But this does not mean that it is an idea unique to Peter. Peter simply captures in a new word what Yeshua intimated in His phrase “born from above” in John 3 (yes, that’s right, the words “born again” do not appear in the famous John 3 passage).
There are two important ideas in this word. The first is that the verb is passive. It is not something that I do for myself. It is something done to me. Of course, that makes perfect sense. No one chooses to be born. As Heidegger remarks, we are all thrown in to the world.
The second important idea is that this is a word of participation, not of an experience, a state of being or a kind of power. It describes the beginning of a new life, not a mystical experience. To be “born again” means to be regenerated into a new life. When I am generated again, I am a participant in new living. This new life actually increases the tension between our old way of living and this new way of living. I feel this tension as my new way of living works itself out in the process of becoming like God’s Son.
“Born again” is shorthand way of describing the moment when you yielded control of your life to God and recognized that Yeshua removed the barrier that stood between you and God. In fact, Peter tells us that God was instrumental in calling us to Himself, causing us to confront our need for reconciliation. But it is not the end of a process. It is the beginning of being animated by God and being transformed into a new way of living.
I can point to the day this happened to me. I was sitting in the middle of a soccer field on the island of Nuku’alofa in the South Pacific. I knew my life needed something that I could not find. I knew God had His hand on me, pressing me to open my eyes to Him. And I knew that Yeshua took the punishment I deserved. That moment started a long journey, full of wandering, wrestling, wishing and willing. That moment made me a participant in God’s work in progress. It was not the conclusion. It was the prologue. It was the turning point in a road that has seen lots of poor decisions, deliberate disobedience and downright obstinacy. But God never let go. He is still “re-making” me, every day, every minute, on my pathway toward the goal He has in mind. Now I can look back on that moment and say, “Thank you, Lord, for my second birth. Thank you for allowing me to grow up all over again. Twice blessed.”
Christian evangelicals tend to make this event the most important event of life, expecting that the relationship we have with God depends entirely on some moment of awareness. But I wonder if the proper perspective isn’t about the beginning of a long journey that will take the rest of our lives to complete. Perhaps the second birthday is not accompanied by blood and cries as much as it is accompanied by waking up and getting up.
What was your second birthday like?
Topical Index: anagennesas, born again, born from above, 1 Peter 1:3