Friday May 1, 2020
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:12-17 (NRSV)
In Christianity, the phrase “Born Again” is often used by Christians to describe what it was like after they had accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their life. Although the phrase may be new to some people, or it may make them think of the street preachers who harass people with signs saying that they must be born again, the phrase is actually a quote from Jesus as He was speaking to Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee who was a leader in the Temple. When Nicodemus came to Jesus in secret, for fear of being found out by his peers in the temple, Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again” – from John 3:3.
People don’t always like change. Change is an affront to a person’s current reality. When that change has to do with their thoughts on religion, or their way of life, the change that would be required to be “Born Again” is intimidating and it can be insulting.
One of my favorite and least favorite games to play is Monopoly. I like it because I love making contracts with my fellow players (that are written and signed) so that both of us could possibly avoid paying rent on each other’s property when we land on them. To me, this is a creative spin that I bring to the game to make it last longer, and to ensure that my money pile keeps growing. However, something that you can’t make a contract for is when you land on the space that sends you to jail. The only thing to save you from Jail is either paying a fine, rolling dice to try to get out, or by employing a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”.
When you have that card, either by chance, or by making it a condition of a contract between players, going to Jail is no big deal because the penalty of Jail is alleviated by the playing of that card.
But Monopoly is my least favorite when my contracts are up, when I have no Get out of Jail Free card, and when friends may turn against each other for the purpose of gaining property, money, and winning the game.
During Monopoly, players are tempted to fall into the trap of turning against each other (with genuine emotion) over a fictional game. I have certainly had my share of heated discussions over my fear of losing my properties and money that I worked so hard to earn.
But it’s just a game, right?
Although it is just a game, the emotions can become real, and while you may be a nice person outside of the game, the game can bring out qualities of yourself that are normally controlled.
But imagine if the anger and frustration that can take place during a game of monopoly began to become a part of your every day life. You might begin to seek out wealth and power whenever you could, even if it means stepping on other’s toes to get to where you want to be.
Thats what happens when we live according to what the Bible calls “flesh” and “sin”. It might not be wealth or power, it may be other things that you may seek out – like attention, addictions, etc., but whatever it is, we all have the capability to do wrong and even evil things when we only live according to our own desires and goals, without thinking about others, or what these desires may be doing to our character as we seek them out.
The passage today tells us that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior – we don’t have to be enslaved and tied to our selfish desires. When we are born again, we are servants instead to the Spirit of God to do God’s will.
And more than that, we recognize that we are no longer alone, but that we have become adopted as God’s own child. The message is so extreme that when we feel defeated, not good enough, or marked by our past mistakes, that God sees us as being covered by the righteousness and Grace of Jesus Christ. Because the penalty of our wrongs has already been paid by Christ, and the chains of our desires and addictions no longer hold us down for eternity because Christ broke those chains in the Cross and the Resurrection.
Yet the passage today also conveys the truth that though we are covered by the grace and protection of God, that we will also likely suffer on this earth at the hands of others who may be letting their lust for power, money, and their own desires get the best of them.
But we must remember that when it comes to our own life in the eyes of God, we have been Born again, and when we are confronted by our worries of how God sees us, or when our own desires tempt us to come back to seeking them out selfishly, we are no longer bound, and we have been made free. Its not because we did anything to deserve it – its a free gift that saves us from the result of our sinful pursuits. Like a Get Out of Jail Free card.
In times such as these when a calamity is striking our world, we can either follow our own selfish desires and buy all the toilet paper and supplies that we can find, or we can live according to the will of God by helping one another through this time by getting them supplies, praying for them, checking in on them, and by being kind and courteous to those we run across when we make our trips to the store.
And the best thing that we can do is to be a voice of the hope of our faith by following God’s will in our actions, and by telling those who are close to us that though we too are worried, that we have hope and peace through Jesus Christ.