26th September 2011

A Sense Of Belonging

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
John 10.14–16 (NIV)

From the moment we are born we have a need to belong. Initially, and most intimately, we belong within our family unit, and that sense of belonging stays with us throughout our lives. When it is damaged by divorce, separation or death, our sense of belonging is damaged in a way that can affect us emotionally for the rest of our lives.At the other end of the scale, we have the sense of belonging to our country of birth. We are English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh; or American, French, Chinese—whatever our country of birth. Even when living in another country people often feel bound and loyal to their country of birth.

Throughout our lives we have a sense of belonging, at different times, which is less permanent than that of family or national identity.  We belong to our class and school, college or university for a while. In our working life, each job brings a sense of belonging for a while.  We may get a sense of belonging from playing a sport or joining others in supporting ‘our’ football team; or the sense of belonging that comes from supporting our national teams in whatever sport.  All the things we are involved in bring us into contact with other people, and some become friends, giving us another sense of belonging.

In many of our inner cities there is a rising gang culture which some of our young people join, especially if they come from a broken or difficult family background.  Membership of a gang gives them a sense of belonging.  Businesses play on this need by setting up a ‘club’ with some special benefits to give us a sense of belonging to try to retain our loyalty and maximise our spending with them.

Belonging is a real human need and we all go through our lives belonging in different ways for different periods. But when we die, as we all will some day, in what way do we continue to belong? Certainly not to any of the different things we have belonged to in this life except one.  In the lists above there is one missing, for many people have a sense of belonging because of their faith in God, however they express it.

The Bible tells us there is life after death. So it may be worth, in our extremely busy 24/7 lives now, to think about what a sense of belonging to God means. It has an eternal value, but it also has benefits in our life right now. If you belong to God you need have no fear of death, and the Bible tells us that God’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11.28–30).

Being a Christian does not give you a magic wand to wave away the troubles and trials we all face in this world, but it does give you a source of strength to endure them and a guarantee that you will not be overcome by them..  You may enjoy all the things you belong to in this world—your family, your circle of friends, your job, your sports team, your national identity, and that is fine, but only one is certain even after death—your sense of belonging to, or your relationship, with God.

As the scripture above tells us, Christ is our shepherd. He knows us and we can know him so we can have a sense of belonging now which will last into eternity. Christ laid down his life for us and also for those other sheep who have not yet responded to the call.  It will be a wonderful day when all humanity can have a sense of belonging to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, as truly one flock.

Our loving Shepherd, help us to enjoy belonging to you, willingly surrendering our will to serve others, that they too may come to know the sense of belonging that is our anchor in an unstable world.

Study by Keith Hartrick

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