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The Desire to Belong

I’m not sure that the desire to belong is all bad. As a matter of fact, I think it is pretty good. The desire reminds me that I am not an island unto myself but made as part of a greater whole. It was not right for Adam to be alone. One part of the body cannot function nor be sustained separated from the body itself. The desire for belonging reminds me of my limitations, of my need and ultimately, that I am a dependent creature. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:7-8 There are two things I was thinking about this morning in regard to this belonging:1) to whom or what I attach my belonging and 2) how my sense of belonging directs my perceptions and interactions with others. I belong the the Lord, according to what He has told me in His word. This matters. I belong to Him as a dearly loved child and not as a dispensable possession. This is a position guaranteed by the work of Jesus, secure because my sin and righteousness cannot increase or decrease this connection. I won’t get voted out, driven out, phased out, excluded or even tuckered out of this belonging. It is a guarantee that I will never be alone and forgotten by the maker, redeemer, sustainer and ruler of all that has been made. We’re talking about the One who sets up kings and deposes them, the only One in the universe who can tell the waves this far you may go and no further, and the ONLY One who opens doors nobody can shut and who shuts doors that nobody can open. What club/school/neighborhood or other membership offers anything close to this kind of power and influence to those who belong? And yet, the other types of belonging to which I run and cling with white knuckles offers an immediate sense of validation and significance. And then I see what my desire to belong is about: I want to belong to know that I matter and am important. My heart views membership as something that serves me which also means that I then view other people accordingly. To the extent that they make me feel “at home” in my own skin, and therefore like we “belong” together, I am at peace in their presence. To the extent that they seem foreign, “other” and disconnected from what is familiar to me, I feel stiff, silenced and uncomfortable in our perceived lack of belonging together. My delight and comfort with other people, my decision to draw near to some and avoid others, is by this standard all about how those relationships serve me. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5 The person and work of Jesus declare my membership in His body something that serves the whole body. Because I securely belong, I am freed from a self-serving stance in relationships to serve others. How wonderfully different from membership serving my unquenchable craving for belonging to appease my insecurity. It offers a new view of “others” as well. Other people no longer are categorized by how they make me feel “at home” or like we “belong” together. Suddenly, perhaps, people who look totally different than me, who think in foreign ways to my conceptual frameworks, who speak differently and live differently become just as comfortable to be with as those who seem to make me feel more known and understood. If my desire to belong would be fully met in Jesus, who has already told me that I do belong to Him, how might that send me out to interact with others? Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12

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