By Paul Lancaster
I wonder whether you’ve ever thought or said “I don’t know where I belong anymore.” Changing circumstances of life such as break down of a relationship, loss of a loved one, moving home, young people going off to university, having to migrate, the impact of the pandemic etc. can all have a bearing on what belonging means for all of us.
Family is where most people get a sense of belonging-but not always- some never seem to know what it means to belong. Research has shown that income level, marriage and children, security, pale in comparison to belonging. Advances in technology and communication don’t mean we have a greater sense of belonging. Nothing promotes human flourishing more than belonging in promoting sustained human happiness.
We long to belong?
Belonging isn’t an abstract psychological state it is a primary human need – beyond food, shelter – an innate human desire to be part of something larger than us, – sometimes we try to belong by fitting in and by seeking approval, but these are hollow substitutes which often create barriers to really belonging. An emphasis on self-esteem, although important, falls short of the value of really belonging.
So what does it mean to belong?
Belonging originates in who God is “…Christ belongs to God.” I Cor 3v22. Everything in the whole of creation expresses this belonging. Nothing stands alone. We return to the source from which we came – the Omega is the same as the Alpha. One of the best definitions of belonging I have found is “to be fully known and fully loved”. This is the fundamental expression of God’s heart towards the whole of creation, everyone and everything, whether they are aware of it, accept it or not. Therefore we all belong! This helps us answer three important questions, who are we?,where we have come from?, where are we going?
What does this mean in our interaction with others?
Sadly, often as Christians we don’t start from a strong understanding that everyone and everything belongs to God. We end up “othering” people, sometimes we even treat fellow Christians as though they don’t belong just because they say or do things differently. In Jesus’ ministry his unconditional love and acceptance first and foremost created a sense of belonging. The disciples did not “belong” because they “believed” certain articles of faith. They accepted an invitation to “…be with him…”Mk 3v14. They knew what it was to belong first. Their journey into “belief” “faith” and “trust” was faltering and needed time to grow.
Perhaps we can approach others more from the understanding that they belong first and foremost; treating them not as outsiders; welcoming and accepting them unconditionally in our attitude as we get to know them; giving them the space without pressure to discover they really do belong because they are “fully known and fully loved” by us and God.
By Paul Lancaster – Hope For The Nations