by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
One evening not long ago, our seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Monica, participated in a musical program at her school, in which the kids sang for the parents. One morning a few days later, after I had taken Monica to school, I saw the school's music teacher, who had coordinated the program, and told her how much I had enjoyed it.
She thanked me and then asked, "And who do you belong to?"
I thought this was a great way of asking which kid was mine -- after all, Monica doesn't just belong to her mom, Charlotte, and me, we also belong to her. I also thought it was a great question for you and me as children of God: Who do we belong to? A great deal depends on the answer.
Everyone has a need to belong, to have the sense of identity and validation that comes from being part of something larger than themselves. We all have a need to point to someone and say, "I belong to them." Young persons join gangs partly because they need a place to belong. We affiliate ourselves with organizations, office cliques, sports teams and other groups so that we can be surrounded by kindred souls and like-minded individuals. Sometimes, we look to our family to provide a sense of belonging. Other times, we try to find the answer in earthly love: "I'm hers," or "I'm his," we say, when asked. Sometimes, we even try to find the answer as part of a church congregation. But whose are we really?
In our case as God's children, belonging brings both privileges and responsibilities. The privileges of belonging to God are truly wonderful. We are God's because we have been bought through Jesus' shed blood (1 Cor. 6:19b-20a; John 10:14-15). Once we were separated from Christ but Christ himself bridged the gap (Eph. 2:11-13). We have received grace and mercy from God (1 Pet. 2:10b). God has chosen us (John 15:19b) and called us (Rom. 1:5-6). Once we were nobody and had nothing but now we are God's people (1 Pet. 2:9a) and have become heirs of the promise that was made to Abraham (Gen. 13:14b-17; Gal. 3:29).
But we also have responsibilities. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Gal. 5:24-25 NIV.) We do not belong to the world, we have been called out to be a separate people (1 Pet. 2:9a). We don't generally have to worry about being persecuted for our faith like the early Christians but the world can still resent us for being different (John 15:18-19). But we have assurance that, no matter what, ". . . whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." (Rom. 14:8 NIV.) We belong to the light and to the day (1 Thes. 5:5), and we are called to be people of the truth (1 John 3:18-19). Others should be able to see that we belong to God through our behavior (1 Thes. 5:5-8) and through our love (1 John 3:18). "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." (I Thes. 5:8 NIV.) We are called to testify about the one who called us ". . . out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Pet. 2:9b NIV.) And to call others ". . . to the obedience that comes from faith." (Rom. 1:5b NIV.)
The world is full of people who need to belong, people who are separated from Christ, people who are looking for the answers to their needs. If they look to us, we can show them the way. We can invite them to join us and be a part of the family of God, to join with the one who has called us to be ". . . a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." (1 Pet. 2:9a NIV.)
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22 NIV.)