Wrestling a Thought

For those waiting for part two of the Break-Up please check back later today.

Here’s a thought I’m wrestling with and I know all my friends who are Christians and/or great theologians and/or philosophers and/or bartenders will be able to help me out. I’m looking for help so anyone reading this with an opinion or even half of an opinion, please fill me in!

There’s one place in the New Testament (that’s the back half of the Bible) where Jesus says to one man who is NOT his disiciple, “you must be born again.” It’s never repeated, it never turns up in any of the other gospels (the message of Jesus told by 4 different guys) and yet it has become a universally accepted norm for followers of Jesus. For a decade (a couple decades ago) it was the distinguishing mark of a ‘true’ Christian. You’d tell someone, “I’m a Christian.” They’d ask, “Are you ‘born again’?” You’d better have answered yes or be prepared for an Amway style presentation. Chuck Colson wrote a book with that title about becoming a Christian. Songs have been written for Christians to sing with that as a lyric. It’s mainstream Christianity.

There’s one place in the New Testament (*see above) where Jesus says to one man who is NOT his disciple, “sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” In this case it IS repeated, it appears in Mark’s gospel and in Luke’s but it doesn’t come up again in the rest of the Bible in that exact form. In Acts (history of the birth of the church) that there was no need among the first church because everyone sold and shared. BUT it has never become a universally accepted norm for followers of Jesus after the first century.

So here’s my question: why?


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
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11 Responses to Wrestling a Thought

  1. sweetlybroken says:

    great question. “he who has the most toys when he dies wins” has replaced “sell everything you have and give it to the poor” rooted in selfishness.
    That is, by far, the most thought provoking post I have ever read!! Brilliant.

  2. shelleyperry says:

    hmm. think we already know the answer to this one? being “born again” is abstract and it doesn’t actually require us to do anything that might make us too uncomfortable (depending on how much you take that phrase to heart) while selling everything and giving it away is a very concrete command that requires us to give something that is very hard to give (money). I think it’s easy to see why one was pursued above the other.

    I have a sinking suspicion that this may not be the only think we have gotten wrong in our Christian culture…

  3. Nancy says:

    I’m taking this to my Bible Study class this a.m. I will get back to you with the comments from some very wise ladies.

  4. Heidi says:

    I don’t have an answer to your question (who could really), but I hafta say that maybe your question doesn’t really require an answer….maybe the question is the answer!

    VERY good question to ask, I love how it challenges us.

    (was hoping for Part 2, but wasn’t disappointed)

  5. brianmpei says:

    thanks for all the comments. I’m not being rhetorical in the asking here, I really appreciate eveyrone’s input on this.

  6. TJ says:

    Another two cents tossed in the kitty…

    You can be “born again” and still trust/have faith you’ll be ok cuz you still have your “stuff”, you’re putting your trust/faith in your “stuff”.
    You can’t give all your “stuff” away and trust/have faith that you’ll be ok cuz there’s nothing you can see that you trust/have faith in.

  7. Nancy says:

    Sometimes old is not wise. I’m not sure my study group understood the question. But a couple who did, agreed with shellyperry.
    And stated, that there is too much greed and most would not be willing to make the sacrifice. For me, I will be pondering the question for sometime.

  8. brianmpei says:

    Heehee. Thanks for trying Nance. Maybe the process is more important than the answer.

  9. peisteve says:

    Ok, here’s my thought or thoughts. When Jesus told the man that you must be born again he was talking to everyone… ie “no one will enter my kindom unless they are born again”
    But when he spoke to the man to sell everything and give it to the poor he was only talking to that man and not everyone.
    I’ve always read that as meaning that “that man” had issues with money and possessions and cherished them above all, and when Jesus asked him to sell them and give it to the poor his worship of money and possessions would end.

    great post Brian

  10. brianmpei says:

    I like that Steve but when I read the passage about the Rich Young Ruler where he says “give it all away” he goes on to say how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (and I’m in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest) and then Peter says, “we’ve left everything to follow you…”

    Thanks for wrestling with me.

  11. Lindsay says:

    Well, perhaps it’s been said already- but I do believe that it’s a heck of a lot easier to say you’re “born again” and have that as a feeling, than actually going out and DOING stuff to compliment that being “born again” command in the first place…It’s really an uncomfortable thought to think about selling everything, and giving to the poor- let alone doing it.

    It doesn’t sit well with me that the second command is not a more well known one, or possibly a more ignored one? How much more blessed of a church we would be…and how much more blessed a community would be if this command- amongst many others were followed just as well?! MAN!
    Thanks for this provoking question Brian!

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