By: Jenni Walker
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3–4
* * *
No matter how young or old we are, we have all had those moments throughout our lifetimes: Not getting asked to the winter formal in high school…being passed over for kickball on the playground…not having anyone to sit with at lunch…scanning a new environment for a friendly or familiar face…not being asked to sit with a group of women at a meeting…laughing along with some friends who are sharing a joke but not feeling a sense of connection…not receiving an invitation to a friend’s dinner party…moving to a new neighborhood…
The list of possible scenarios where we feel awkward, slightly hurt, or disconnected from others is endless. Based on our various experiences, upbringings, and personalities, those scenarios and our responses to them will differ. Some we can get over quickly; still others stay with us for a long time. But we all have had them. And we all remember them.
Even when we are anchored in our identity as children who are loved by our Heavenly Father and have received adoption into the family of God by the work of Christ Jesus (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:5), we still have to wrestle with this need and desire to belong, to be wanted, to be affirmed. How do we navigate our time here on this earth where there is always the possibility of pain, rejection, and broken relationships?
Timothy Keller puts it well explaining, “The moment I unite to God through Jesus Christ…I am absolutely accepted…if you are that affirmed deep down in your soul, if you know you are loved like that, then you can go out into the church, you will not look around and say, ‘Who can I hang out with to make me feel good about myself?’ You will look around and think instead, ‘Who just needs somebody to hang out with them?’ You go out there not looking to be affirmed but to be affirming.” (From The Gospel, the Church, and the World sermon.)
Wholehearted women, as daughters of the King who belong to Him and in His family, we do not need to live for the approval of others. Rather, we can live as courageous women who live for our Lord’s purposes and who are empowered by our identity in Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 brings this point home, declaring, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” This reality shakes us to our core and puts us on a counter-cultural trajectory as followers of Jesus. What a difference it makes: Belonging to God means now we can help others to belong, too!
How do we do this? What are some things that get in the way? It is interesting to note that both women who undermine themselves with words and those who criticize others have a common root of these behaviors: a fear of what others think of them. Proverbs 29:25 tells us, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Combating the need for approval from others starts with Christ! And as Timothy Keller put it, when you have settled in your heart that you belong to the Lord and are a part of His church body, you will stop approaching relationships from a self-oriented perspective, looking for your interactions with others to make you “feel good” about yourself. Rather, you will have a paradigm shift as you start “not looking to be affirmed but to be affirming” (Timothy Keller).
We cannot say that we belong to God, that we are a part of His body, and not be the hands and feet of Jesus to others. These truths must translate into how we treat others in our own personal lives! When we grow in understanding of what it means to belong to the Lord and to be a part of His family, we will begin to develop hearts of compassion that are not only free from the “fear of man” described in Proverbs 29:25, but the Lord develops in our hearts a desire to help others experience that freedom and belonging, too!
Everyone desires to belong and to be a part of something. There are seemingly innumerable organizations, worthy causes, Facebook groups, and much more that we have available to people nowadays. But they do not provide the kind of belonging we are created for. We cannot forget that those who are not saved are not yet in the family of God! But we can treat them as men and women made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and we can be demonstrators of the lavish love of God (1 John 3:1). They need their hearts led to repentance and to see their need for a Savior, just as each one of us has experienced through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
As Christians, we need to remember that we are partakers of all that has been offered to us in and through Christ! Living this authentically in the body of Christ and taking that kind of love to others can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict and reach the dark, needy, numbed, and rejected areas of people’s hearts. When we relish being part of the family of God, we are not being exclusive or telling others they do not belong. Rather, we are putting the goodness of God on display in a way that says, “Welcome, you too can belong!”
This also applies to how we treat those who are already our brothers and sisters in Christ. Did you know that the Bible addresses time and time again how Christians are to treat one another? Jesus commands His disciples in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Romans 12:10 tells believers, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Why does the Bible emphasize this so much? Shouldn’t it be easier to love other Christians than non-believers? Not always, but we are still called to do it. God’s design for family and for His church is meant to produce blessed fellowship and sincere love among His children. This brotherly affection and love in the church is also a light to others! In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ with a holy affection and an obedient heart to God (1 Peter 3:8-9). When family or church members extend grace and selflessness to one another, it is counter-cultural to what a “normal” reaction might be. It makes others outside of that family want to be a part of that, too. People cannot help but notice the difference!
Let’s be wholehearted women who are rooted in our identity in Christ. How can we be intentional to have a friendly attitude that takes notice of others with a smile of acknowledgement or a helping hand, being full of hospitality, service-oriented, and demonstrating to others the great love of the Father that we have also received (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:13)? These are not just nice, moral behaviors; they are rooted in the work of Christ and make an eternal difference! When we live in such a way as to help others belong, those outside the body of Christ are provided the opportunity to come to terms with their deep, eternal need to belong as they observe Christians living the hope that is provided through Christ and the beauty of His church.
Time to Reflect
- How is godly love toward other Christians used by the Lord to draw unbelievers to Himself and to the body of Christ? How has He called you to be a part of this?
- Romans 12 is written specifically to Christians about how to treat others already in the body of Christ. Prayerfully and humbly read this chapter. What is the Holy Spirit ministering to your heart?
* * *
(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)