What is Born of God?

One of my constant “growing edges” in life and faith is the negotiation of what is my responsibility and what is God’s. When I stop and take a look at what is happening around me, and through me, I am often surprised by how much I live as though everything depended upon me. This probably has as much to do with my own growing up as an oldest children, and the family systems of which I have inherited, as it does with my own “little” faith. Whatever the explanation(s) are for this behavior, I understand that intellectually that “it” (whatever it may be in any given situation) is not all up to me, and thankfully so. If it were really up to me, we’d be in trouble. De-Programming this as an orientation, however, is much easier said than done.

Not long ago I was once again reminded of this struggle when I read Psalm 127:

“A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” (Psalms 127:0–2)

Some queries arise for me from this:

  • Am I allowing the Lord to build the house? And, practically speaking, because I am one driven by a deep sense of praxis, what does it actually look like to create space for the Lord to build the house?

  • Do I insert myself into as many situations as possible, believing that my involvement, my presence can somehow “save” the day?

  • Do I trust God enough to allow God to do what it is God wants to do?

Recently I preached on a passage out of 1 John that reads:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:1–2)

This led me to thinking about the questions dealing with God giving birth (the greek language found in these verses uses wonderful mothering language around “begotten” and “to give birth too.”

So I wonder:

  • “What is Born of God?” And am I able to recognize it when it happens? Or do I try and explain it away because it is something that deeply challenges or confronts me?

  • Am I working on my own relationship to God in a way that I can truly and faithfully say that I will love whatever it is that God gives birth too (Loving the one giving birth leads to loving the one birthed)?

These are difficult questions. Questions that I continue to sit with. But part of what I recognized in meditating on these passages was my own need to nurture “that of God” within me. I need to recognize and be open to what God is birthing in myself, and if I cannot respond appropriately to that, how can I expect to respond appropriately to what God is birthing in those around me and in the world?

I am not interested in feeling guilty about not doing it right, or beating myself up because I constantly try to “do it myself,” or because I have little faith. I gave up on shame-based Christianity a long time ago. I know that God’s love is deep and wide. But I am interested in growing in my own awareness and growing in a way that I actually believe/live that is more free, not less. This is a different interaction with myself and others insofar my role becomes less about creating, doing and birthing something myself (the constant drive to overfunction) and more about noticing, listening, drawing out, and asking good questions (seeking a more non-anxious existence).

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

4 thoughts on “What is Born of God?”

  1. Your leadership at Camas shows that you are trying to flesh out these truths. I admire and appreciate that about you. I guess I look for the virtues of Christ as given in the beatitudes and when I see those accompany a person, idea, direction, etc. I assume it is born of God.

    1. Hey Stan — thanks for the comment. I agree with you that the Beatitudes are a good rubric to use. Thanks!

      Let’s have lunch soon.

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