Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. –John 3:5 & 6
Dear members and friends,
Among the four Gospels, the Gospel of John is unique and different in many aspects. The focus of John from the beginning is about the importance of becoming spiritual beings whom he calls “children of God” who were born, “not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) Thus, in John 3, Jesus proclaims, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:3) This later gave birth to the evangelical emphasis on being “born-again.” However, there is a critical difference between what Jesus proclaims as “to be born from above” and what the evangelical churches emphasize as “born-again.” What Jesus meant by “to be born from above” is to live a life of charity and love to others, while what the evangelical churches mean by “born-again” is to acquire a membership of such a church by reciting a public confession created by that church.
My experience at a Korean Presbyterian church in Kwangju, Korea was that despite people’s claim of their newly-gained status of “born-again,” I never witnessed any behavioral changes in their actions. This deepened my confusion, because I was a teenager who was already struggling to understand the apparent difference between the message of Jesus and the teachings of the church. In my understanding, in John Jesus was crying out to us to be different from how most people are living in the world, even to the point of becoming entirely different beings. “To be born from above” sounded to me, therefore, like changing our inner core and consequently how we treat each other. Yet, to be “born-again” at the church was simply to go through the ritualistic process of reciting what one was told. In the end, they just carried the badge of “born-again” proudly without adding any kindness or gentleness in their actions.
I was liberated from this confusion and struggle after meeting Swedenborg, especially after learning from him about what regeneration truly means. According to Swedenborg, regeneration – which is the process of being born from above – is a lifelong process guided and led by God. In a way, this process is God’s education for us. Though our life begins here in the physical world, we continue and join God in heaven for a spiritual and eternal life. One way or another, we will all need to learn to transcend the reality of the material world and to be prepared for life in the spiritual reality.
My brothers and sisters in God, let us take a moment and reflect upon our continued spiritual journey. Perhaps we could ask a simple question to ourselves: am I heading toward the proper destination?
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee