It is a good thing to be ardent in doing good, but not just when I am in your presence. Can't you continue the same concern for both my person and my message when I am away from you that you had when I was with you? Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ's life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth. Oh, I keep wishing that I was with you. Then I wouldn't be reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language out of sheer frustration.
-Galatians 4:18-20 (The Message)
After night had a fallen, a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus. He offered words of flattery, "Oh Rabbi, you are so wonderful. We know you have come from God, since you perform so many signs." Jesus cuts right through the fluff: "Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to--to God's kingdom."
In our reading above, we find Paul strumming a familiar chord. There is something about a birth that is vital to life with God, to life in Jesus, to knowing his kingdom and what it is like. A birth, new life, a new world. A transition from one realm to another.
Paul likens himself to a mother, in the pains of childbirth, bringing those to whom he proclaimed the gospel into the kingdom world. The birth is a difficult one. It isn't instanteous, but rather lengthy. Discipleship and formation and new life cannot be rushed. Paul wants them to grow in grace "beyond birth". He wants them to grow and be mature. He wants them to realize the life that can be theirs in Jesus. He wants them to see that the good news about Jesus is grace all the way down.
We are likewise called: a new birth, a new life, new hope, new possibilities! Kingdom, kingdom, kingdom come, with a king who is just and wise and good. Along the way, we meet heralds, like Paul, announcing this kingdom, inviting us to believe that Christ died and Christ has risen. And the life of Christ is likewise being formed in you.
Grow beyond the birth. Look past the one who introduced you to Jesus to Jesus himself, and live according to the call, "ardent for doing good", at all times, and in all places, and in all ways, to God's glory.
Lord Jesus, help me to live faithfully as your follower. Thank you for making possible a new beginning, a new birth, a new life. Now, help me live fully in accordance with what you have already attained. Bring me in to the fullness of your righteousness. Bring me to maturity. Bring me in to the life that you have modeled, the life you have desired to put in to me. Amen.