About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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A Sense Of Belonging


He was only 4 years old when my dad saw him entering the school yard on a cold Canadian winter's day wearing a spring jacket, without a hat and gloves.  Dad asked the boy's teacher how he could help the little guy.  "There's nothing you can do," she replied.  "If you buy him winter clothes he'll probably come to school dressed as you see him dressed today."  Dad couldn't leave the matter alone.  The next day he presented the teacher and the boy with a new warm winter coat, gloves, and hat, but the teacher was right.  The boy returned the following day wearing his spring jacket, without his new hat and gloves. 


This junior kindergartener came from a fractured family.  He didn't know which one of his mother's boyfriends was his dad, and his mother didn't seem overly concerned about that.  She had birthed a number of babies from a number of men.  How could these little souls have any real sense of belonging?


What I call fractured families are commonplace today.  They're just one so-called legitimate expression of what our post modern culture calls family.  This fracture has been spurred on by our over-emphasis on the individual.  Our "me first" mentality has not only ripped apart the traditional family, it is carving up the concept of community.  Like the little boy described above, we have a generation with little to no real sense of belonging.  


The Apostle Paul presented us with a balance between the individual and the community.  "In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all of the others (Romans 12:5 NIV)."  In Paul's mind he maintained the distinct personality, talents, and calling of the individual when he penned the words "we who are many."  On the other hand, he promoted the concept of community when he penned the words "form one body".   


Paul's point is simple.  Jesus has placed the individual believer alongside a few other individuals to whom we belong.  This placement brings balance between the individual and the community.  It's in community where the individual develops personal relationships which provide the means by which he functions as a vital part of Jesus' earthly body.  It's in these relationships where we find a sense of belonging, but that's not the way it always is in our highly organized hierarchical church structures we have today.       


The western church has been infected with our culture's unbiblical over-emphasis of the individual.  This has fractured the church family into countless competing camps where the individual trumps the community, leaving many with no sense of belonging.   


I realize we're fallen individuals struggling with our sinful nature (Romans 7).  Church will never be perfect in this present age, but that shouldn't stop us from heading in the direction of perfection.  Jesus prayed for unity in John 17.  He can't be happy with our divisions.  Paul certainly wasn't (1 Corinthians 1:10).  That being said, even Paul admitted that some divisions are necessary.  They show who has God's approval and who doesn't have His approval (1 Corinthians 11:19).  I know the wheat and the weeds will grow together until the final harvest (Matthew 13:30), but I'm not talking about disunity between the wheat and weeds.  I'm talking about disunity among the wheat. 


In 1 Corinthians 12:21 Paul told us that the eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you.'"  Church history documents the fact that we have not taken Paul's instruction seriously.  Almost from day one of the church we've struggled with maintaining Biblical based unity.  Even as the church was about to dawn on the horizon of history the apostles arrogantly argued over who of them should be supreme (Luke 22:24 - 30).     


If there is one place where we should find a sense of belonging, it's in the Body of Christ, but that's only realized when we are properly fitted into personal relationships with a few others.  Yes, we are still individuals maintaining our distinct personalities, talents, and calling, but we are individuals who belong to a few other individuals to whom Jesus has placed us alongside.  The word "belong" in this context is a powerful word.  It means we care for those to whom we belong.  We seriously consider their words of encouragement, admonition, and correction.  We cannot divorce those to whom we belong except for certain Biblical reasons.  We not only fellowship with those to whom we belong, we work with them for the good of Jesus' earthly body.  We function together as important members of the community of Christ.  It's in this atmosphere that we find a real sense of belonging.


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