Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born from above.” (John 3:3)
In the middle of an excruciating summer, our men’s group is being blessed with great community. We are having an intentional, steady, and rich conversation about our own journeys of life and faith and seeking to grow in our understanding of the possibilities of racial reconciliation. We are being helped by one another and using the book White Awake by Daniel Hill as a resource. Daniel is pastor of River City Community Church in the Humbolt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Like most of us, he is a white Christian who’s trying to grow in his understanding of reconciliation too.
The beginning of my book is all marked up. He shares his story of a long, hard, and transformative reflection of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, who is a leader of the Pharisees and comes to him at night, who has a deep sense that Jesus is indeed sent from God and wants to meet him. What Jesus says you can see above.
Pastor Daniel’s reflection settled on the words SEE and KINGDOM. Regarding SEE, Here’s his own words:
I knew I had been asking the wrong question when it came to racial reconciliation and cultural identity. Each step of my journey had been driven by the question “What am I supposed to do?” But now that question made far too many assumptions about the foundation I was launching from. The far better starting point would have simply been “Can I see?” with the obvious answer being no. That would then lead to the true question of transformation, the question that needed to define my journey from that point forward: “Jesus, will you help me to see?”
and regarding KINGDOM, this:
While Kingdom represents numerous layers of theological depth, for the purposes of this journey, I saw it a synonym for reality. Jesus was showing Nicodemus that he most needed to see that two different realities were colliding. Through his natural eyes, Nicodemus would remain limited as to how much he could see of the world around him. But through eyes that were spiritually reborn by the Spirit, he would see the reality of God in an entirely new fashion.
There’s a reality that belongs to God alone, and Jesus is the one who ushers us into it. This is a journey he longs to lead us on and a journey we’re invited to participate in. But the price of admission is a full acknowledgement of our utter blindness. Only when we embrace our lack of sight can Jesus begin the process of illuminating the truth that we so badly need to see.
Like Nicodemus, we stumble toward Jesus in the dark. Though not in the text, I can imagine him saying, “Jesus, help me to see. Help me to see.”
Now I may be wrong about this, but I think in our forever politically charged climate of slanted soundbites and breaking news every hour on the hour that causes our wrists to beep, we MUST root ourselves instead, and defiantly in the narrative of the Kingdom of God, that is apolitical and fundamentally other than any empire, anywhere, ever. We need the Church, and each other, and the scripture and the Spirit to lead us to the Living Word of Life, Jesus the Christ. It is here, and only here, that we can begin to see with new eyes and enter into the world’s pain with humility and resolve. Our hearts and minds are in constant need or rebirth; our hands and feet then can follow Jesus into the broken world with healing reconciliation. We are going to spend much of this next year together trying to focus more intentionally on a growing understanding of this, taking the advice, the pleading invitation of Jesus: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…”
The hard thing is that all this involves my beginning with owning my blindness to see. I am left with a simple breath prayer that I’m going to keep now as long as I’m still alive. Jesus, help me see. Jesus, help me see. I hope you find yourself in this honest, desperate, and longing place with me. Then we are ready, really ready, to meet Jesus, and follow him too!
Sending love, prayers, and my longing heart to you where you are.
Say with me, together, “Jesus, will you help us to see?”