Here’s a thought-provoking question to ponder on: Have you noticed that the context in which Jesus told Nicodemus about being *BORN AGAIN* is that he was speaking to a believer?
It occurred to me that in the context of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John chapter 3, Jesus was speaking to someone who believed in God, since Nicodemus was a Pharisee who believed in Yahweh, or the so-called God of Israel. So it is unfortunate that today many evangelical churches interpret the passage out of context and tell people to be born again to become a “believer”. Yet in the original context, Jesus was telling a believer to be born again. So, what could Jesus have meant by “born again”?
Let’s look at John 3:5-8.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
So Jesus was telling Nicodemus that to be born again is to be “born of water and of the spirit”, which could symbolise taking off the old identity (born of the flesh – natural identity) and putting on a new identity (born of the spirit – true identity). He could be telling Nicodemus to give up his natural identity as a Jew and adopt a new identity as a child of God in the family of humankind. (Jesus had said in another place that the kingdom of God is within us.) If Nicodemus sees himself only as a Jew, he will see himself separate from other people who are seen as non-Jews. But if he sees himself as a child of God in the family of humankind, he will see himself as one with other fellow human beings and there is no separation between him and other people.
This is how Jesus himself gave up his own identity as God to become us in human flesh so that he finds his identity in the context of us and sees us through our human eyes and becomes united with us in our joys and sufferings. I believe this is how love operates at the self sacrificial level.