"So tell me," she asked in all sincerity, "what does it mean to be a born-again Christian?" Over 35 years later, I still wince at the memory of fumbling and sputtering out a vague and disjointed response that did nothing to answer her question. She concluded that the church, rather than equipping me to defend the faith intelligently, had brainwashed me into mindless obedience. Sadly, I bungled my best opportunity to witness to her.
Looking back, I wish I had explained that when Christ took possession of my life, He changed my entire way of seeing the world. His priorities became my priorities. Beliefs I'd once held (astrology, reincarnation, universal salvation and the equal validity of all religions, to name a few) no longer held me, as I submitted to the fact that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I'd been destined for eternity in hell, but Jesus' death on the cross atoned for my sin and His resurrection gave me power to walk in repentance.
Ah, but she (more than anyone) knew I still clung to my sins of anger, selfishness and pride. Back then, I found clever ways to justify those sins, when I could have acknowledged their repulsiveness to the Lord. Although I continue to struggle with them, however, I now understand they belong to my old nature, which was crucified with Christ. I no longer need to practice them.
Through the shed blood of Jesus, God accepts me as His daughter. Slowly, because He's extremely patient with my rebellion, His Holy Spirit has been replacing my sin with attitudes and behavior that actually reflect my Heavenly Father. As He brings about my resemblance to Him, despite it being pale and weak, He confirms that I've been born again.
And I will, over 35 years later, write her a letter.