“Where do I belong?” For a long time, this question was answered for people before it was asked. For so many, the hometown, the family business, the traditions of the culture made the question of belonging a non-issue. But things changed as mobility, education and communication advanced. The question of belonging became more of an individual choice according to personal preference. “Where do I belong” became “Where do I want to belong?” This shift can be good or bad. It can allow someone to break out of an oppressive or destructive situation. It can also allow someone to willfully leave a stable, loving situation in a grand search for identity. “Where do I want to belong?”
Chances are if you’re reading this, you would say that you belong to Jesus. As Christians, we believe Jesus bought us with the price of his blood on the cross and defeated death for us through his resurrection. In our baptism, we were claimed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for His purposes. We are a people who belong to God. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pe 2:9)
What about each other? Do we belong to each other? What does it mean to belong to a church, or a ministry, or a denomination? Let’s bring this closer to home. What does it mean to belong to Bethel Lutheran Church? Worship attendance? Ministry participation? Giving? Prayer? Theological agreement? A name on a list? This is where we often make the transition to the question, “Where do I want to belong?” Is it really about personal preference?
Let’s take our cues from the first Christian church. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about belonging. Take a read:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Co 12:12-20)
To belong to Jesus is to belong to his body, the church. We belong to each other. God equips each of us to play an integral part in the body of Christ. We are not just a bunch of individuals who occasionally team up to do a few good things. Instead we come together to form one unit, working in tandem and putting personal preferences aside to compassionately bear truth to this world. By God’s grace, that’s what it means to belong to Bethel Lutheran Church.