Be + Long

Do you belong? If so, to what or to whom do you belong?

In 2003 author Joseph Myers wrote a book called, The Search to Belong explaining that BELONGING is one of the most fundamental hungers human beings experience. He said that at our core, human beings are affiliative. A large part of how we understand ourselves comes from the different places and groups to which we feel we belong.

Another writer said that the word BELONG explains itself pretty well: each one of us LONGS to BE part of something… either a group or a place or a cause or a family. I can still vividly remember the pain of being cut from the eighth grade basketball team after try-outs. The very clear message from the coach to me was, “You don’t belong here!”

Stop and think for a moment of all of the circles of which you are a member right now. To start with I belong to my family of origin. I belong to the family (or families) that have been created by marriage. I belong to the Terrace Place neighborhood – and I must add – proudly so! I am also proud to be an American! I belong to the Great Plains Annual Conference, to the community of Heritage United Methodist Church, to the fellowship of United Methodist clergy persons, to a couple of different clergy covenant groups, and to the more loosely constituted groups known as Kansas City Royals fans, NPR supporters, amateur gardeners, and senior men’s softball players.

Oh yes… did I mention I also belong to the group known as “disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Each one of my affiliations is capable of conveying an element of meaning… to me and to those around me. Like the bumper stickers on the back of your car our affiliations tell the world something about who we are. But none of them really tell the whole story of YOU.

As you make your own inventory of your different “belongings,” which one means the most to you? To which do you point most proudly?

As you were making your own list, did you notice something else? Did you notice that each one of these circles has its own unique set of entrance requirements, too? I have become a member of some of these groups because of the accident of birth. I belong to others because of education or socio-economic standing. Still others because of a shared interest or passion.

John 13:35 spells out the rigorous entrance requirements for belonging to the exclusive fellowship of “disciples of Jesus.” On the surface, it is pretty darned simple. To actually MEET the requirement, on the other hand, is a day-by-day and even moment-to-moment challenge.

Here’s what Jesus lays out as the “doorway to discipleship” in this passage. Are you ready? He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Notice that he didn’t say, “You are my disciple if you have a seminary degree.” He didn’t say, “You are my disciple if you belong to Heritage United Methodist Church.” He actually also didn’t say, “You are my disciple if you subscribe to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.”

The ultimate test of our belonging to “the Jesus group,” comes in the lives we lead, doesn’t it? It’s a test we can’t fudge… we can’t fake… we can’t cheat on… we can’t even be excused from for medical reasons.

My goal today is to pass the entrance requirements and actually BELONG to the group I say I am part of.

How about you?

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