The “birthmark” on this power pole provides several bits of information. “SOCO” is the company it was “made” for (changed from a tree into a pole for.) ACE is the pole making company. “515” is May, 2015. And the bottom “5-35”, means it is a 35 foot long, class 5 pole. The class refers to the diameter and thus, the strength. I’m not familiar with the other line of characters, but it most likely refers to the species of tree (since it’s in southeast Georgia, almost surely a Southern Yellow Pine), and type of preservative treatment of the pole. When the tree is “re-birthed” into a pole, it receives its birthmark. (For reference, this is the information I was looking for when I came upon the eyed click beetle featured in my last post.)
Some people are born with birthmarks (and that, of course, is where the term comes from.) These birthmarks come in different forms, such as spots in the eye, or streaks of different colored hair. Most I have seen are colored patches of skin of various sizes and shapes. Birthmarks can identify a person, showing clearly there is something different about them.
My question is, do we have a “birthmark” from our second birth (when we received the Holy Spirit in our heart – or, we can also say, when we became a Christian)? Are there characteristics we have that make it clear to others that we are different? The Bible says there should be. We are to be humble. We are to love one another – not superficially, and not just those who love us – even loving our enemies. We should not retaliate for wrongs (not repaying evil for evil.)
That list could continue for several pages, but let’s consider this birthmark a bit more. A Christian’s birthmark isn’t branded on like a power pole’s – deep and complete the moment it’s done. Nor, is it like most physical birthmarks – clear to those who see it when the baby is born.
Our Christian birthmark may not even be evident to anyone when it’s begun. It’s like a painting. In the beginning, there is no clarity. The painter knows his plans, whether it will be a portrait or a landscape, but an early view won’t reveal which it is to be. Over time, the artist adds layers of color, blends light’s and dark’s, and creates textures to bring out previously unseen dimensions. What’s on the canvas becomes clearer, and those who see it begin to understand what it is becoming.
The artist of our Christian birthmark is, of course, God Himself. As He makes our birthmark clearer and deeper, the Holy Spirit leads us, strengthens us, teaches us, and, yes, sometimes chastises us. However, unlike the lifeless canvas which has no part in a painting, we are a part of the process. We have responsibilities to exercise faith, to learn and to change in response to the Spirit.
In the first chapter of 2 Peter, the Apostle writes that we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Christ, and through Christ’s work have become “partakers of the divine nature.” In our context, we could say we were given a birthmark that showed we became children of the King.
Then Peter writes that because of that, we should be working to make that birthmark visible to all around us:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV
With each step in the process, our birthmark becomes clearer, deeper and more complete. Those around us notice we are different. But, before we begin to take credit for all the work we’re accomplishing, we must acknowledge the Artist is still in control. The Holy Spirit provides the power and abilities to take these steps and without Him, as Jesus said, we can do nothing.
So, just what is our birthmark for? Why does the Spirit work in us and with us to make it clearer and more visible? There’s a simple answer for a child of the King: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV