Americans believe in second chances, and for people of faith, that can mean being born again, leaving a past life behind and beginning anew. This week's clergy discuss what it means to start over, spiritually, from three different religious perspectives: mainline Protestant, nondenominational Christian and Eastern religious traditions.
Anjani Seepersaud, Teacher of meditation, Global Harmony House, Great Neck:
There are several ways of looking at being born again. One is a spiritual rebirth, where I am a witness to my old way of living versus a new spiritual life. I realize I need to choose another path because the path I was on didn't bring me peace. I am in the same body, but I am aware of this transition from an old to a new, different way of living. In the other rebirth, when there is death, the soul exits the body and enters into another body. That is called reincarnation. As Brahma Kumaris, we don't even use the word death because the soul is immortal, eternal, imperishable and indestructible. It lives forever, water cannot wash it away, fire cannot burn it, weapons cannot cut it, there is nothing to destroy it. It's eternal. So to us, the spiritual being, the soul, has the ability to operate a body, and when that body no longer functions it is possible for the soul to take a new birth. One is not completely starting over because you carry the script of your life with you. You are actually recording your story at every moment and that's what your present is: a reflection of your past. And your present is creating your future. As you sow, so shall you reap. There is suffering because the past is emerging. Progression will only come when you take a spiritual life and act in the present according to natural spiritual laws. That's where your spiritual birth comes in, when you can ascend in life.
The Rev. James Barnum, pastor, Bellmore Presbyterian Church:
Today many are confused about what it means to be born again, especially when they confront born-again Christians. It is important to know that people who are born again get so excited that they are loved by God and "saved" by saying farewell to their "old life" that their biggest motivation is to save everyone else's soul. Unfortunately, this attitude often does not allow others the freedom to either accept or reject God's great offer of love and forgiveness. The Bible reveals a God who is passionate to be in a deep and abiding love relationship with us as humans. It was within the context of John's gospel that we find this phrase, "born again." It is important to know that the context of this phrase in the Bible came as a result of a rabbi named Nicodemus, when he acknowledged that Jesus Christ was a teacher of God because of the miracles and words Christ performed. Jesus responded to Nicodemus and said, "Unless you be born again (better translated as born anew or born from above) you cannot see the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3) As a Presbyterian minister for over 30 years, I am not ashamed to share how God captured my heart when as a teenager I yielded my life to Jesus Christ, via the Youth For Christ/Campus life movement here on Long Island, when I too was born anew.
The Rev. Thomas Humphrey, elder, Grace Community Church, Amityville:
It means that you have a new life, a spiritual life, that will give you assurance that you will spend the rest of your eternal life with Christ, who is in heaven. First you have to be born again, by surrendering all of yourself to Jesus Christ, and asking him to come in and save you from those sins that you have committed. You turn everything over to him for the blessings. In Romans 10:9 it tells us, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." In my own case, in 1989, I was going to work in the morning at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, and driving on Sagtikos Parkway, and, for some reason, right there in the car, I accepted Christ in my heart and asked him to clean me up, and he did. And those things that I had planned against the word of God -- in other words nightclubbing, etc., He changed all those plans I had for partying. He changed every one of them. I turned it over to God, and ever since then I have never turned back to the world that I was in before. I don't even think about it anymore. I just believe in having faith in Jesus Christ, and I have been happy ever since.