“…. In reply 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.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8).
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ― William G.T. Shedd
There has been much written and preached about John 3. Perhaps more than any other section of Scripture it has been pronounced as a center piece of Jesus’ revolutionary teachings regarding entrance into the Kingdom of God. However, it seems to me that much of what I read and hear addresses the entrance into this Kingdom but leaves us just inside the gate. Any Believer has truly been granted entrance but I wonder if we have settled for mere entry and are missing so many of the wonders of this realm? It’s comparable to planning a Disneyland vacation – getting the time off, purchasing airline tickets, finding a good kennel for the dog, etc. – and then just standing inside the gate once you arrive. There is so much more to explore but you are content in just getting your ticket punched. We fly to a dream vacation spot and never leave the terminal! What a foolish, even stupid proposition. We went to Disneyland but did we “see” it?
I wonder if that is the common experience for so many of us as we arrive within the Kingdom of God; content just to find shelter.
To drill down a little further, do Christian marriages settle for entrance and miss the limitless expanse of a marriage which “sees” the Kingdom? Imagine it in this way: If you died and began to experience the wonders of heaven, what would you “see”? You would quickly realize that your current imaginations are inadequate in describing the overwhelming wonders suddenly made clear. My question is, “What if we allowed ourselves through the eyes of faith to see eternity in our marriages now? What if we journeyed far beyond the gates and traversed the hills and forests of the Kingdom of love? What would we see? What would we experience? To enter these lands we must allow the Lord to foster within our relationship a desire to “see more”. With that prayer Jesus has promised that if we seek we will find (Matthew 7:7). A “born again” marriage has been empowered with the capacity to see the Kingdom. The question remains, will we leave the confines of the birthing room in order to see it in fullness?
You may be asking a Nicodemus question though, “How can a marriage be restored (made new) when it is old? Surely you cannot create anew what has been scarred by years of hurt, mistrust and indifference – can you?” I really don’t raise this question mockingly because I too have asked the same question. But here’s the reality – we will not see the power of the Kingdom of God in the midst of our marriages unless we are willing to leave the elementary things and go onto maturity (Hebrews 6:1). Only then will we “see” the Kingdom of God in our midst.
So what is a mature marriage? Much too big of a question to answer here, but consider this:
There are marriages that give birth to flesh. I suggest these are those committed to self-effort and protection. Then there are marriages born of the Spirit and defined by a couple releasing themselves to the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2). There is nothing safe and predictable about them as they are moved about by the wind of the Spirit. That wind “blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with every marriage that is born of the Spirit”. Unions of the Spirit do the unpredictable; they surprise. Instead of an “eye for an eye”, they give mercy and understanding that turns away wrath; instead of being first in the home, they seek to be last and are thus exalted; instead of giving what is deserved they give what is needed. They are marked by daily exercises of service and esteeming their mates higher than themselves. A marriage born of the Spirit is a miracle!
“Spirit of the Living God of marriage, fall afresh on us.” We are amazed that you would choose to live in us – humbled. But this humility inspires us to rise up and explore the caverns of the Kingdom as you “come alongside us”. Help us to ever leave the safe restrictions of the gate and love as the new creations we have been made to be. To the One who has given us birth from above, Amen.