In the gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” I’ve heard people say that this means followers of Jesus shouldn’t let themselves be pinned down to appointments or commitments, but should live as freely and spontaneously as possible, because they never know where the wind of the Spirit might take them next. What do you think of this?
Jesus’ interview with Nicodemus is discussed in Session 4 of the John study guide. To answer your specific question, when Jesus said that people who are born of the Spirit are like the wind, I don’t think he meant that they’re unpredictable and spontaneous, and don’t make or honor any regular commitments, so that no one will ever be able to tell where they’ve come from or where they’re going. I think Jesus was talking instead about his own origins and destiny, and by implication the origins and destiny of anyone who chooses to follow him.
Nicodemus begins his conversation with Jesus by saying, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.” Jesus replies to this assertion, which is a little too confident, by saying in effect, “Do you really think you know where I’ve come from?” An incident later in the gospel illustrates how Nicodemus doesn’t know where Jesus has come from even from an earthly standpoint. Nicodemus tries to stand up for Jesus when the Jewish leaders accuse him, but they argue that Jesus couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because he’s from Galilee, and the Scriptures don’t say the Messiah will come from there. If Nicodemus really knew where Jesus was from, in the most basic sense, he’d reply that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem, right where the Scriptures say the Messiah will come from.
But much more importantly in terms of the theological concerns of the gospel of John, Nicodemus doesn’t realize that Jesus is the eternal Word who has come to earth in human form. So Jesus talks about the wind: you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. The earthly Jesus can be seen and heard, but most people don’t realize his divine origins, and they don’t realize the divine destiny he’s come to fulfill.
Amazingly, anyone who is born of the Spirit will be like Jesus in this same way. I think that’s what Jesus really means when he talks about those who are born of the Spirit being like the wind. He’s not endorsing or recommending a spontaneous, unpredictable behavior pattern. Rather, he’s saying that his followers will be endowed with the same heavenly origins and destiny that he has. Pretty amazing!