“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Adonai is in His holy temple.
Adonai, His throne is in heaven.
His eyes see and test humankind.
Adonai tests the righteous…”Psalms 11:3-5a (The Complete Jewish Bible)
Rebirth from above, the way Yeshua/Jesus defined the way to enter the Kingdom of the Creator, Adonai – is completely contrary to how humankind conceives its salvation and redemption. It cuts completely against the grain of our gut-sense that we have to do it. We innately believe that somehow we must find within ourselves the means, the will, the motivation to fight, climb, and work ourselves out of the pit of our weakness and brokenness.
All across the millennia of recorded history, religions and philosophies, whether Oriental or Western, have taught and inculcated, consciously or by osmosis, as well as by reflexive, unconsidered action, that our personal and collective efforts must appease and win the favor of whatever gods there may be. Or, if, after all, there are no gods to appease and cajole to be favorable, or perhaps such “gods” as there may be are unworthy of esteem, we must find the right techniques – mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, ideological, personal and collective – to move ourselves from the pit of misery to the apex of individual and community happiness, peace, and well-being.
Even in the extremely secular modern-post-modern world of today, this quest for salvation and redemption goes on through the application of progressive, ideological, science-based, or science-justified, social engineering. Religion has been relegated to the fringe for weak people who need a crutch, or repurposed as an individual, private pursuit of “spirituality”.
Even the vocabulary of rebirth has been repurposed as “revival” and “revivalism”, or renewal and reform. But in his conversation with Nakdimon (Nicodemus) in Yochanan’s (John’s) account of Yeshua/Jesus, that is the farthest thing from what Yeshua was saying. We saw in our previous post that this declaration of the necessity of “rebirth from above” was about something called agape, a Greek word we translate in English as love – and in its equivalent in any other western language (e.g. amour, amor, amore, liebe, etc). But the term “love” is so vague that it cannot grasp what this vastly different sort of “love” meant by agape encompasses. In English (or French), it means everything from fuzzy sentimentality to sexual passion, or even a special preference for some food or fashion, etc.
Another part of the immense truth of agape is its direct connection to the nature of “Adonai”, the Creator-God. The Creator is its source, and the power to really agape others, and even oneself, cannot be found within the brokenness of the human heart, soul, mind, and spirit. For us, love is conditional and dependent and ebbs and flows according to conditions and reciprocity. From time to time we may find some exceptions in its durability and commitment. From a Biblical perspective this still flows from our “God-connection” in that humans are made in the Creator’s image and therefore retain a capacity to reflect the Creator’s characteristics, however feebly and partially.
The Kingdom of God is all about agape and entering it can only be by that road. Otherwise, we are once more trying to prove we can do it ourselves, trying to prove we don’t really need the supernatural power of the Creator to really love the agape way, the way the Creator loves each of us and everyone, and indeed the whole Creation that Adonai made in the beginning. Even those claiming to be Adonai’s children are not automatically agents of agape. It still hinges on being born again from above, by the coming of Adonai’s own Spirit into the very soul and spirit of the one calling on Adonai to partake of this rebirth from above.
Huge numbers of books and treatises have been created and expounded on how this happens and what its effects are when it does. This writer and blog will certainly not attempt to sum up the past nearly two thousand years of those discussions and debates among Yeshua’s followers and those who have critiqued them, whether sympathetically or with hostility. In fact, at least to some degree, the whole history of the Christian faith and its component divisions into three major “Branches” (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) and a myriad of subdivisions (denominations and sects), is due to differences in how all of this works in theory and in practice.
I will limit this discussion to saying that the evident fracturing of “the Church” into hundreds and even thousands of subsets was hardly what Yeshua had in mind when he told his first followers “I will build my ekklesia (badly translated as “Church” in English) and the gates of Hades (“hell”) will not prevail against/overcome/ it.” Whatever infernal powers there might be would gladly lay claim to having overcome Yeshua’s disciples, at least to some extent, by shattering them into many fragments fighting, wrangling with, and even killing, one another. Such agents are hardly ushering in the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Even the Church needs to be born again from above, just as every individual “naming the name of Yeshua/Jesus as Lord” does. A rebirth of this sort in agape means death – death of the old way, of the illusion of self-salvation, of self-sufficiency and autonomy. It does not matter what form of this “realization of true self and potential” the individual is choosing, it is begin from the wrong starting-point, the same old one seen since the first legend, myth, history of humankind began. It begins the primeval lie that we can be god ourselves, that we are wise enough to discern and really understand for ourselves the “mystery of iniquity” as the Apostle Paul-Saul once phrased it.
Whether there was/is an actual malevolent supernatural being or set of beings that seduced toe first humans into believing they did not need the Creator and could manage their own affairs, as well as those of the planet, without the Creator-Adonai is not finally the question. If “the satan” was present at the beginning as an actual spiritual entity of malice, it did not compel those first humans to choose themselves and their own “godhood” over against the limitless agape-goodness of Adonai. Until that point of decision when “Adam and Eve”, the progenitors of humankind, had moved and flowed in union with Adonai in agape. After, they had lost it and could not, by any power or method at their own disposal, return to it.
Likewise, with Yeshua’s sojourn among humankind, there came the offer and open opportunity to turn back to Adonai and His agape, as to a Father who had come to his lost children to offer full reconciliation. When the offer is accepted, the gift of agape is extended and poured into the broken wounds and empty heart. Then there comes a new mind and a new heart, empowered by agape. From that, everything else flows and becomes possible. That is rebirth from above and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua-Jesus is its embodiment and the Father’s extended hand and actual human presence.
TO BE CONTINUED