You Can’t Be Born Again

The gay protesters who harassed the old man reading his Bible outside the Chick-Fil-A franchise put a chalk message on the pavement in front of him reading HE’S REALLY GAY DEEP DOWN INSIDE.

What they are saying is that “He may say he’s a Christian, but that’s a superficial distinction. What he really is, deep down at the very core of his being, is a homosexual.” They don’t really know this, of course; they are making a point about identity. It’s a serious question: What qualities of a person are fundamental and central, and what qualities are changeable and matters of mere preference?

In a similar vein is this fellow’s sign:

Born Gay and Taught Religion? Or Is there Another Explanation?

Now, I think the science is still unclear as to whether people can be “born gay.” Certainly some are born with innate tendencies that favor a later-in-life decision to prefer same-sex contacts. We’ll leave the first half of the sign alone for the time being. The second half of the sign relates the message that “religion” (and we can be fairly sure he means Christianity specifically) is a cultural, learned pattern of behavior. It is a question of identity: This fellow has chosen his gayness as the very core of his being, the one unassailable stronghold in his life, the way he self-identifies.

I am reminded of a story from Bob George’s book Classic Christianity:

Lee slumped in a chair in my office as he told his story. “I have been a homosexual for many years,” he said. He spoke ina  low voice. He was visible depressed and tired. “Then, just a few months ago, I was introduced to Jesus Christ by some friends. I started attending church, and I thought everything had changed. But now there’s a guy in church that I’m attracted to, and I can’t get him out of my mind.” Lee’s voice broke with emotion as he told of his heartache, of how, in spite of his efforts to change, he found himself falling into the same old habits.

I went on to talk with Lee about truth in many areas, beginning with the issue of identity. Who did Lee say he was in the beginning of our conversation? “I am a homosexual.” But is that true? Is that who God says he is? I began by turning to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and we read:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.

“Do you see that, Lee?” I asked. “You came in here and told me that you are a homosexual. But the Bible says that’s what you were. That’s not your identity today! Let me finish reading the verse:

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I went on to explain. “When God looks at you, he doesn’t see a person with the identity ‘homosexual.’ You are a child of God, Lee! That’s who you are!”

This is the crux of the matter. Does sexual orientation lie at the core of one’s being? If so, a person once born gay can never be born again as something else. This is in fact a denial of a central claim of Christianity, which says that a person can, and indeed must be, ‘born again.’ Christianity posits an actual change of identity at the moment of conversion:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”  John 3:3-7

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.   1 Peter 1:23

Peter’s “imperishable seed” is Paul’s “new creation” – the reality of Christian conversion. The imperishable seed is the new identity that continues into eternity (see 1 Corinthians 15:53-54). This is a crucial point: Christians must engage and challenge modern definitions of identity. If we as Christians relinquish this ground, if we allow that people cannot, in fact be born again, we have no message at all. The salt will no longer be salty, no longer fit for anything.

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