Authentic Community: Finding Real Belonging
What would the perfect community or friend-group look like to you? What would some of its main characteristics be?
What is your experience with Christian community (youth group, church, friend group)?
What prevents you from committing yourself to being a part of a Christian community?
What does it mean to you to belong to something?
What would need to happen in this group for it to be considered to be your own community?
The word for belong in the Old Testament Hebrew is הָיָה hayah
to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic), to abide, remain, to be instituted, be established
The word for belong in the New Testament Greek is εἰμί eimi
to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
There is always a sense of belonging to something.
But, more often than not, we see belonging as something that we gain.
We want to belong to a community so that we can feel more at home, experience new relationships, grow in our identity.
We often have a more self-centred view of belonging.
When belonging, by it’s very nature, is a giving up something.
A giving up of your time to prioritize belonging and giving back to your community.
A giving up of your energy to participate consistently as a member of the community.
A giving up of your gifts to contribute to the flourishing of others.
A giving up of your seclusion for community.
What do you think about the idea of belonging as actually being a giving up before really gaining in return?
Giving Before Gaining
There are not too many things in life that we need to give of ourselves before receiving something in return.
And more often than not, when we want something, we get it instantly.
So when it comes to participating in, contributing to, and finding meaning and belonging in a community outside of yourself – this can feel like an overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and time consuming thing.
I mean, why go meet a bunch of strangers and sit in a circle at a Bible study when I can just tell Netflix I’m still watching? Well, that is a great question that we will get into another time.
The truth is, we need to give before we receive.
In order to be connected, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.
We need to be vulnerable in order to feel truly connected to others.
Those who have love and belonging believe that they are worthy of love and belonging.
What keeps us from connection is that we believe that they are not truly worthy to receive and experience love and belonging.
Longing for Belonging
It makes sense: Many have lost, or never had, a true sense of belonging.
For all our great advances in technology, modern Americans are more distracted than ever before.
Despite constant, always-on connectivity, we’re lonelier than any other human group in history. All is not well with us.
Belonging is our primary human need. Beyond food and shelter, nothing promotes human flourishing like having a people and place of belonging.
Belonging in the Scriptures
Belonging takes several forms in Scripture, but it’s not a complicated theme. There are three levels.
Most of the references to belonging refer to one’s ownership of possessions.
People are often said to belong to a fixed social group—priests to the Levite division (Luke 1:5), Joseph to the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:4), and the early Christians to the church (Acts 9:2; 12:1).
We belong to God and his family—a truth that itself gets expressed three ways in the New Testament.
Belonging to the Family of God
We belong to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The church is the bride that belongs to Jesus, the bridegroom (John 3:29).
Christ died so that we might no longer belong to ourselves but belong to Christ and bear fruit for God (Rom. 7:4).
Without the Holy Spirit, no one belongs to God (Rom. 8:9).
Whether we live or die, we belong to God (Rom. 14:8).
How does the fact that you belong to God give you comfort?
We no longer belong to ourselves or to the world.
Jesus’s own disciples belong to him, not to the world (John 15:19).
We no longer belong to the darkness; we belong to the light (1 Thess. 5:5, 8).
How does the fact that you do not belong to this world, but to Christ, change how you see the world around you?
We belong to one another in the church.
The children of God belong to his family forever (John 8:35).
In Christ, we form one body and every member belongs to all the others (Rom. 12:5).
How does belonging to the Church give us a sense of community and belonging beyond ourselves?
When we belong to God, not ourselves, we can then and only then fully belong to others.
Belonging to Christ
When we’re secure in Christ, we’ll be established and rooted in how he has made us, and we will belong to him and—in a sense—to ourselves.
We can become who we were meant to be—fully adopted and secure children of God.
We “come home” to ourselves in this significant sense. The layers of protection that have surrounded us like shells can begin to fall away, and true spiritual transformation can begin.
Fully Known, Fully Loved: In Christ, we can find true belonging: True belonging is being fully known and being fully loved.
In other words, our deepest satisfaction comes not from achieving personal autonomy but through acceptance into unconditional love and in unbreakable belonging to a people - to the church, a community of faith set on the foundation of Christ.
In it's perfect form a non-jugdmental, love and prayer filled, community of people seeking Jesus together.
Heidelberg Catechism (1563)
Q: What is your only comfort in life and death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ . . .
We belong not to ourselves but to God, and through him, to his people. At long last, our search for true belonging can have a happy ending. In Christ and among his people, we’re fully known and fully loved.
How Do I Find Belonging?
Invite Others to Belong