Colin C M Campbell
Christ’s words are quite clear: “Truly, unless a (person) is born again he (or she) cannot see the Kingdom of God.” There can be no compromise between the old mindset and the born-again mindset.
At first, this appears to be a shocking statement. We all know people who live moral, responsible lives. Is the born-again experience necessary for them too — or is it primarily for the repentant prodigals among us?
In fact, morality and responsibility are not the issue. The old mindset in both respectable and dissolute individuals is characterized by thinking in grooves. The old mindset continually recycles past slights and successes and future hopes and fears. It lives in its own closed reality, through which it filters the events of daily life.
Its “now” is a slave to these attachments. For such a person to be able to experience fullness of life, the thought patterns (including the dreams) of the old mindset must first be crushed. There can be no compromise with this!
“just as new wine cannot be poured into old wineskins, a spiritual death is necessary for the new life to begin.”
This experience can produce such grief that it leads many to turn to bitterness, cynicism, atheism and addiction. However, just as new wine cannot be poured into old wineskins, a spiritual death is necessary for the new life to begin.
This involves such a wrench that Jesus compared it to being born again.
It is because of the pain involved that most people die still living with the old mindset.
In Jesus’ words, “The road to life is narrow and few there be that find it.”
Although there can be no compromise, paradoxically, the old mindset is a necessary preparation for the new.
Developing a framework of reward and punishment is a necessary stage in mental development. The born-again mindset does not mean that there is no value to respectability, but rather it has a different meaning now. In Jesus’ words, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law but to fulfil it.”
In the old mindset the rules of society established a way to earn fame and fortune.
They provided a road to success and failure and created winners and losers. In this perspective, rarely is the present moment allowed to exist for itself. In winners, the “now” is sacrificed to opportunities for the future. In losers, it is sacrificed to regrets about the past.
Although the old mindset is a normal way to begin life, it is a disastrous way to end it.
Without trust in God ‘s Providence, there is no alternative. The old mindset has no choice but to live in its own separate reality and to filter all its experiences, in terms of the benefit to itself.
Jesus’ rule for discernment is simple: “By their fruit shall you know them.” Good fruit needs good soil. In the parable of the sower, the seed is the Gospel and the soil is the hearer. If the soil is hard or stony, the sower may have to plough the ground for the seed to yield fruit. Someone once said, “If you want to make God smile, tell him your dreams!”
The born-again mindset is in a relationship with God, which does not ignore the world. Its goal is to receive from the Holy Spirit the charisms necessary for the one reborn to help build the Kingdom of God. However, for this to be possible, the mind must be freed from its “grooved” thinking and idolatrous addictions.
Let us trust God to do his work in us!
Colin C M Campbell, PhD, teaches high school physics at Glendale Secondary in Hamilton and is a member of St. John the Evangelist Hamilton.