I Was Born Again This Way
Mayor Pete Buttigieg had some strong words for Vice President Mike Pence a few weeks ago.
The openly gay mayor and possible presidential candidate, referring to his own homosexuality and Pence’s traditional views on marriage, declared : “If you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
He was speaking for millions who believe that what we feel is what we are , and what we are must be what we were meant to be .
We once judged the rightness or wrongness of something by the thing itself. Today we’re judging right versus wrong actions not necessarily by the actions, but by their origins. It’s as if we’re saying, “If you were born with a tendency, that justifies giving into it.”
So said pop singer Lady Gaga years ago when she made a huge splash with a dance single extolling the virtues of self-love, self-congratulation, and general self-celebration in her song Born This Way.
The lyrics proclaimed that whatever we are must be good simply because it is. And if it is, that must mean God intended it. So our birth endows us with certain attributes that must be acknowledged, embraced, trumpeted. To do less is to deny your true self.
Does ‘Inborn’ Mean ‘God-Ordained?’
There’s plenty of room for theological debate right there, in light of scripture’s clear explanation of our fallen nature. David, for example, said:
“Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” ( Psalm 51:5 )
In fact, if “I was born this way” was a justification for sin, then Jesus never would have said, “You must be born again.”
“I Gotta Be Me. So I Gotta Deny Me”
That’s the real issue here. Certain tendencies may or may not be inborn (the jury’s still out, for example, on whether or not sexual orientation is pre or post-natal) but we can’t conclude “inborn” means “God ordained.” After all, studies have indicated that conditions like alcoholism, addiction, depression or even violence may have genetic or biological roots. Yet no one’s whitewashing them just because they may be inborn.
Which raises the broader question of how we define our “true selves.” Plenty of folks these days decide to celebrate feelings they once resisted by claiming, “I could no longer deny who I am.”
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But is “Who I Am” really determined by what I feel — or, rather, by the principles I live by, which determine what I do with those feelings?
In my natural (read: “inborn”) state, I’m a professional jerk: selfish, indifferent, lazy. I can default to those Jerk tendencies at any given time.
But who I really am is a Christian trying to follow Jesus. So when the Jerk tendencies emerge and I resist them, I am being true to myself by denying deeply ingrained desires for the sake of even more deeply ingrained principles. It’s a simple choice — Jerk or Jesus.
Re-Born This Way
That’s why I could agree with the “I was Born this Way” sentiment if it were only qualified with a brief “re,” as in, “I Was Re-Born this Way.” Natural birth passes on father Adam’s sinful attributes, while re-birth endows us with divine attributes to be acknowledged, embraced, even trumpeted.
In some ways — race and gender [biological sex], for example — we can say Amen to the “God made me this way” line. But when it comes to feelings, sexual or otherwise, it’s downright scary to consider a scenario in which we collectively decide that whatever we feel must be inherently good and should be acted on.
Just ask the guy who I nearly ran over when he arrogantly jaywalked in front of me last Thursday. He’ll tell you he’s glad Joe Dallas doesn’t celebrate his natural inclinations.
New Creation, New Nature
Thankfully, though, there are other inclinations placed in us by our rebirth, fruit of the new nature He gave us when we became His.
“If any man is in Christ he is a new creation,” Paul affirmed ( II Corinthians 5:17 ). The nature bestowed on His new creation cannot be satisfied with sin ( Romans 6:1 ) and is, as Paul also said above, a literal slave to righteousness.
Sometimes an unwilling slave, I’ll admit. There are too many times in a given day when I’ll chafe at the yoke I’m under. But there is a Master to be served who, unlike an earthly one, has not only bought me but given me His nature as well.
The fact there’s any struggle at all between my natural desires and my supernaturally bestowed hunger and thirst for righteousness is inarguable proof of His ownership and my re-born status. That’s awfully good news.
No matter what feelings or cravings I may have been born with, this business is under new management. I was born again this way.
It’s good news because, much as I’ll hate saying no to myself today when I’m pulled towards lust, temper, sloth or whatever, the fact I resist the pull underscores the divine, spiritual man created by God in contrast to the fallen man who was just born that way.
Identity and Birthright
That’s my story in a nutshell. The beast got captured and beauty was placed in him when the gospel was manifest in a redeemed sinner, and as a result the slave to righteousness will make decisions today that would have been inexplicable to him forty years ago.
And when sin, a former master who after all these decades still wants his old servant back, says to me “Jump,” then the former slave who used to say “How high?” will now just yawn, mutter “Oh, jump yourself,” and keep moving.
Can’t be helped. No matter what feelings or cravings I may have been born with, this business is under new management. I was born again this way. I have to be true to myself or, more to the point, my new self.
To proclaim or do anything else would be to deny my identity and birthright.