In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
If I were to ask each of us when were we born, we would undoubtedly answer with the date of our birth. If I were to ask each of us when were we born of God, the majority of us would answer with the date of our baptism. As Orthodox Christian’s through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we believe that we are each re-born or born from above, as is stated by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John 3. We are born of the Holy Spirit and water, with the washing of our sins to an adopted life of being children of God, heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom.
Within the mainstream Protestant and Evangelical world, being born again describes also the date when as individuals we decide to personally accept Christ into our lives – consciously making that decision rather than having this done as a child for us.
Now the thoughts and reasoning behind adult or infant baptism or “conversion” can be discussed at great lengths, yet, I would like to draw our attention to the words of the 1st letter of St. John 5 – “We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”
Accepting that as baptized Christians we are born of God and additionally we accept that we are all sinners and that we all need God to save us, therefore, who are these people who are both “born of God” and that do not sin? How can we likewise come into the state of being sinless children of God?
This weekend is Memorial weekend, when we remember all those men and women who gave up their lives as a sacrifice to fight for our freedom. The moment those brave individuals willingly gave up their freedom and put on a uniform, they were no longer mere civilians but had a responsibility and obligation to live according to a certain path. The path and life of a soldier is not easy. There is the reality of war but also the echoes of past trauma. Sometimes as soldiers decisions are made that are not befitting of a soldier, and for that they face consequences. Regardless of what difficulties they face, even death, they remain a soldier sworn to duty every morning that they get up and put on their uniform.
My dear brothers and sisters, when we are baptized, when we are blessed as infants or personally choose to become Christian, we put on Christ, in the words of St. Paul. We are no longer mere citizens of this world but rather we become children of God. As children of God, we are called to fulfill certain duties and responsibilities, living according to a certain path – God’s will. Even if faced with difficulties, even if our past decisions darken our path and bring us pain, even in the face of death, God’s love remains with us guiding us on our paths. And when we make decisions and choices that are not befitting of a child of God – we face consequences. Regardless, just like a soldier, every morning we get up, we are given the choice to put on Christ as seen in the life we live.
Becoming a Christian is not merely a service or words of a personal testimony. Being born of God is much deeper than being splashed with water. To become a Christian, to truly be born of God we need to do so actively and deliberately with every decision and choice we make – from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, until the moment we fall to sleep. By living a life according to God’s will, we already begin the process of living sinless. That is why Christ says, “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” – in other words be like God. And the emphasis is on the “BE”. Meaning act, live, breathe, choose, create, love, hope, etc. as your Heavenly Father does. Our Christian faith is one that calls us to action. To believe and to act for us, Armenian Christian’s is what being a child of God is. Faith as a Christian is not a feeling, nor is it mere knowledge but wisdom and drive to live out the words we preach, the teachings we read and the love we feel.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, if we want to be one of those whom St. John writes about, “who are born of God and do not sin” – we must live out our faith in action, not because we gain something but because we have something to give. By living out our faith, God will continually wash us of our sin and we will keep in communion with Him – meaning we will be directed towards a sinless life. Will we face adversity? yes; will we be challenged and at times take the easy path? yes; will we lose our life in God? No! The greatest difference between the uniform of faith, which is Christ, and the military uniform we wear, is that no matter how sinful we are, we will not be dishonorably discharged or kicked out. Because as we read in scripture and in the prayers of the Church – God does not desire the death of even the greatest sinner – but only desires that we repent and turn back to Him.
My dear brothers and sisters let us examine our lives and the choices we make. What drives us towards those decisions and who do those decisions reflect? Are we a true example of our faith in God, of His love and forgiveness? Or do our actions only reflect something else. Each morning we get up, each time we step out of the house, each time we come face to face with a choice, what uniform will we be wearing?
I pray that as children of God, born of God, we will always remember to put on Christ, to reflect Christ Jesus in how we speak, think, act and live. And if we sin, let us not lose hope but repent and remember that we are still God’s children. So when I ask when were we born of God – we will all answer: We are born of God everyday and in every way because we are all His children. May the grace of the Holy Spirit be with us and may God vest us in his glory, Amen.