A story is told of three sons who grew up, left home, and went out into the world to make their fortunes. They each became wealthy. One day they got together and talked about the gifts they were able to buy for their elderly mother. The first son said, “I built a big house for Mom.” The second said, “I sent her a new Mercedes with a driver.” The third son smiled and said, “I’ve got you both beat. You know how Mom loves the Bible, but you also know she can’t see very well. I sent her a brown parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery ten years to teach him. I had to pledge $100,000 a year for 10 years, but all Mom has to do is name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.”
Soon after, the mother sent thank you notes to her sons.
To the first son she wrote, “Thank you so much for the house, but I only live in one room, yet I have to clean the whole house.”
To the second son she wrote, “Thank you so much for the new Mercedes. It is beautiful, but I’m too old to travel much now so I stay home. By the way, the driver is rude.”
To the third son she wrote, “My dearest son. You are the only one with the good sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was delicious!”
There are some passages in the Bible that have received the kind of tragic misunderstanding that’s captured by this story. John 3:1-15, which describes Jesus’ encounter with a religious leader named Nicodemus, is one of those.
Famously, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
Nicodemus couldn’t see what Jesus was talking about.
And it’s not that much different in our culture today. “Born again Christians” are considered a subset of all Christians, an unhappy, morally rigid subset at that.
But the truth is, “born again Christian” is a tautology. It’s saying the same thing twice in a row. As Jesus told Nicodemus, no one can be a Christian outside of a spiritual rebirth from heaven.
Actual Christians are, by definition, “born again.”
That’s worth repeating.