About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
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.
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
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.