By: Jenni Walker
“God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.” Ephesians 1:5-6
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
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In the world of psychology, there is something referred to as the “belongingness hypothesis.” Baumeister and Leary describe it this way: “A need to belong is a fundamental human motivation…the belongingness hypothesis is that human beings have a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships.” They also observe that “it seems fair to conclude that human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong…” (You can read more about this here: www.scribd.com/document/233248767/BAUMEISTER-LEARY-1995-the-Need-to-Belong-Desire-for-Interpersonal-Attachments-as-a-Fundamental-Human-Motivation)
Even in our highly individualized culture right now, there is no getting around it: We need to belong! But the problem with this desire is that human beings have a sin nature and, even with the best of intentions, can hurt one another, knowingly or unknowingly make someone else feel excluded, and have selfish tendencies. That is why, as we have already discussed, having our belonging and identity in Christ solidified is so important – it becomes our constant in an ever-changing, often hurtful world.
One In Christ Jesus
Another way God provides a sense of belonging to His children is through deep and meaningful relationships and the belonging found in a family and a community. As Christians, we are the family of God, the body of Christ, and His own special people. This is the second truth that answers our question of “Do I belong?”: We belong to the family of God! Paul writes in Galatians 3:26 and 28, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The belonging we have in the body of Christ is much deeper and more transformative than a mere social club of sorts. The beauty of fellowship that can be experienced in the body of Christ is rooted in the work of Christ. It makes us like-minded, like-hearted, and sharing in a common love and grace found in Him. Status becomes a non-issue, race no longer is a barrier, and weakness becomes an opportunity to lift one another up. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). Timothy Keller points out that in the early church, the culture around them observed that “Christians were unusually generous with their money, particularly to the poor and needy, and not just to their own family and racial group. Another striking difference was that Christian communities were multi-ethnic, since their common identity in Christ was more fundamental than their racial identities, and therefore created a multi-ethnic diversity, which was unprecedented for a religion.” (Timothy Keller, Why Does Anyone Become a Christian?)
In Christ, we become one (Galatians 3:28)! Thankfully, “we are all one” does not necessarily mean that we are all the same. In the description of the “great city” of God found in Revelation 21, we are told that “the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…and they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it” (Revelation 21:24a, 26). In Christ, cultural differences do not need to be barriers; they can bring honor to God and beauty to the body of Christ! And it is in that body of Christ that we all have the same foundation of our existence, of our belonging, of our eternity. And that makes us one.
The People of God
Does this always happen perfectly? No, and it will not happen in God’s intended fullness while we are here on this earth that is still under the sway of the wicked one. But Jesus also prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We can pray for it, we can seek it, and we are to live it as God’s holy and chosen people who belong to Him! “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
What a privilege to be His “holy and chosen people,” each a member of the body of Christ. Being a part of the church can and should spur us to action as His people. How does God want you to be a part of His body? How can you cultivate a heart of compassion and love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Peter 3:8)? Have you prayed earnestly to grow “through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren” as you “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)?
Or perhaps there is a place you can get involved in at your church that you have felt the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart about? 1 Corinthians 12:4 describes “diversities of gifts.” Verse 5 says, “There are differences of ministries but the same Lord.” Later in verse 20-22, Paul explains that there are “many members but one body,” and each of those members have need of one another and have different strengths that are God-given (verse 18). This is the beauty of belonging to the family of God: when we understand that we belong to Him and are here for His purposes, our various kinds of gifts and strengths come together in a spirit of unity. “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). By God’s design and to His glory, we can lean on one another as we follow Christ Jesus. What unity and sweet fellowship is produced when we realize that it is only in Christ that we each belong to the family of God!
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