Whether we like it or not, we live our lives by metaphors.
n. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world’s a stage” ( Shakespeare).n. One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol: “Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the craven” ( Neal Gabler).from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed
One of the most powerful and rich metaphors in the life of faith is from John 3. In this chapter John relates the story of Jesus and Nicodemus discussing religion. Jesus says, “”Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3 NRSV) to which Nicodemus asks the reasonable question about how he is going to do that, return to the womb? Being “born again” is a metaphor. It is a figure of speech that stands in for the process of beginning a new life, beginning that new life as if we were starting as newly born infants.
I think it might be time we took this metaphor a bit more seriously. Jesus could have chosen other ways of describing this reality but he chose “born again.” I think it is obvious that Jesus chose his metaphors and figures of speech carefully, if this is the case then what might we get from taking another look at “born again.”
The first and most obvious thing to pay attention to is that when a person is born again they are born as a baby. It doesn’t matter how old they may look or how old they may be, they are, spiritually speaking, an infant. It is regrettably common when someone comes to faith as an older person, even as a teenager, their spiritual “age” is overridden by their biological age in the eyes of those around them and they are “put to work” in areas of spirituality that are simply beyond them; they are asked to run before they can even walk or crawl . . . metaphorically speaking.
The second is that when we review our own born again experience we may discover, in retrospect, that we were asked to run before we could walk. We may realize upon reflection that our current way of being is adversely affected by the well-meant advice or requests of the people around us at that time. It may become apparent that we accepted a task or ministry or opportunity before we really should have and the effects continue to this day.
Both of these are addressed in today’s sermons so give one or both a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Knox Presbyterian Born again
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Born again
By the way, Heather (my wife just in case you don’t know to whom I’m referring) is doing some fascinating reading in and around metaphors so don’t be too surprised if it comes up again.