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Let’s face it. My hometown Indianapolis Colts need help.
The Blue and White have once again staggered out of the gate at the beginning of the NFL season, hoping they will somehow catch up with the rest of the pack by Thanksgiving.
So I’ve decided to make my move. It’s time to make myself available to the team.
Let’s try to imagine how this might go.
After working myself into top condition (that might take a few days), I could ask for a private tryout with the coaching staff. Then I would say, “Now don’t sugar-coat it. Just talk to me straight. What are my chances of being on the field before the end of this season?”
And the coaches would say something like, “McDonald, the only way you’ll end up playing for this franchise is by being born again.”
Different chromosomes. A father who was an Eastern European weightlifter. A mother who was…well, an Eastern European weightlifter. It would also help if I were born 40 years after my actual birthday. Add to that a lifestyle based on regular vigorous exercise and a careful diet, and I might have a shot.
In John chapter 3, Jesus is approached by a man named Nicodemus – a Pharisee who is deeply impressed with his teaching. What would he need to do to become part of this new movement? “You must be born again,” Jesus says (John 3:3).
This is not a compliment. Jesus is being entirely realistic about Nicodemus’ chances – and our chances as well – of joining his community of lifelong learners.
Nicodemus is taken aback. “You don’t mean I have to start over again in my mother’s womb, do you?” No, Jesus is talking about spiritual rebirth. We cannot participate in Jesus’ vision for the future unless we display new capacities, new motivations, and an entirely new nature that is capable of responding positively to God.
And such things will never become ours through a rigorous self-improvement program – in other words, by trying as hard as we possibly can.
But the new capacities, new motivations, and new nature that we need to walk with God can be received as gifts from God himself.
Which means there is hope for me. At least to join the team that is endeavoring to represent Christ to the watching world.
There is, in fact, hope for anyone who is seeking such a new identity.
Especially if we’re called to confront the forces of evil.
Such as the New England Patriots.