We all have parents, mentors, teachers, older adults, coworkers etc. that were and are very influential in our lives. We, no doubt, know the way that they feel about certain issues; the way they vote, their thoughts on the Bible, the environment, the role of the church, gun control, abortion, sexuality, the way they understand Jesus and the list could go on forever.
Now, ask yourself, do you feel the way that they do because of an examination and conviction of how you yourself feel; or do you line up exactly because you think that the beliefs of those older than you are right because they told you that certain beliefs were “right”? Why do you believe what you believe? Are you committed to tradition and handed down, established ideals?
I’m not suggesting that everything you’ve ever heard, read, or been taught is wrong. There is, however, a big difference between being taught how to think, and being taught what to think. And a good question to ask is, “Who is it that should be teaching me how to think?”
In biblical times, tradition and familial values and relationships were of the upmost importance. Not only did you typically go into the family business, but also families lived together in the same house. For life. Imagine that! So it’s probably safe to say that whatever the political, economic, religious and cultural beliefs of your family were, it was going to have an influence on the way you believed.
Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God. (John 3:3 AMP)
Jesus is essentially saying, if you don’t take it from the top, rethink or reconsider everything, according to the things I’ve been teaching you, you’re going to miss it all (kingdom of God) and it’ll pass you by.
Or another way of saying it is “Peter, if you don’t rethink the way the way in which you live, interact with systems and with others, then this kingdom isn’t for you.” Many implications come from this: kingdom now, eternal kingdom, both? Also, do we have to go against our parents and families? What exactly do we have to rethink? Is everything that I’ve previously believed wrong? This process can be a vulnerable, uncomfortable and scary time. But we must understand what the standard is for rethinking–Jesus.
Brian McLaren puts it this way:
“Well, I think if we take Jesus’ message seriously, it tells us that everything has to change – our way of doing politics, our way of doing economics, our way of interacting with the environment, our way of dealing with people of other religions, our way of dealing with friends and family members with whom we have conflict. From one dimension of life to, of course, the whole range of our human experience, Jesus is telling us that we have to rethink everything. In fact, that’s what repent means – it means rethink everything.”
The context of rethinking everything comes from the sermon on the mount, among many other parables and teachings Jesus puts forth and the way things are going to be with this new kingdom that is emerging. First, last. Meek inheriting the kingdom. Mourners are comforted. On and on.
We have to also look at some illustrations of Jesus’ time on earth. He is a servant. He refers to himself as a doctor and coming for the sick. He himself is the embodiment of a new creation of human. He shows us a new way to be human. And the way that the “new humanity” breaks forth, is by rethinking everything, which is a radical and dangerous thing. But, let’s not kid ourselves; Jesus was intensely radical and presented a challenge to the people of his day. The political leaders, the cultural leaders, the religious leaders who thought he would and should be bringing an army to slaughter masses of people to establish his literal kingdom through violence. All the while, Jesus was going about his business in a way that was entirely counter intuitive to previous ways of thinking.
Jesus is saying “We’re going to be doing things way differently than we have been. We’re going to subvert the current systems and ways in which the world is arranged.” By making these provocative statements then literally living them out and seeing them become reality; by saying he was the first of a new kind of human, he was essentially sealing his own death sentence. Everything that he said and stood for was such a threat to the political and religious leaders, the people who didn’t find the news “good news” killed him.
Now, am I saying that by making an intentional decision to rethink your life, the way you view the world and if you’ll take Jesus at his word and follow him that you’ll be killed? No. But you may suffer. There may be a death on social media. There may be a death to past ways of doing things. You may have friends and family that don’t quite understand.
Jesus was, well, Jesus and he had several deaths and defeats all culminating in a literal death because he dared to rethink and reexamine the human condition in light of the way God had intended life to be lived. If you find yourself experiencing “mini deaths” for the sake of reconsidering everything in light of Jesus, you’re in good company and probably on a good path.