I recently asked my husband and a few of my closest friends what the concept of belonging means to them. What is the value of being in community? Their answers were beautiful:
We don’t have to do life alone.
We get to experience closeness with other people.
We have the ability to offer and receive encouragement.
Community keeps us open and teachable when other people have the closeness to speak into our lives.
Safety comes naturally when we belong.
Gaining the privilege of walking through valleys hand in hand.
All of this points to a common theme: Intimacy.
Knowing others intimately.
Being known intimately.
A challenge toward intimacy with Christ.
You are known when you belong. You belong when you are known.
Look at the opposite of those answers and think of a life lived without connection or belonging: Isolation, loneliness, discouragement, prone to a hard heart, skeptical and unsafe. Worst of all, never being known or seen by anyone.
We are relational beings by design. It is a remarkably powerful experience to be known by someone. For them to walk closely enough with you to see and know your heart. It is painful when someone you love doesn’t really see you or doesn’t truly know you. The connection part of belonging is what bridges the gap between the concept of like-mindedness and the action of walking together.
Have you ever heard it said that you can tell what’s important to a person by what fills their calendar and what empties their bank account? It’s true! What we value shows up on our calendars. What’s important takes its place in our lives. As Christ-followers, people, relationships, and community should be something we value and hold dear.
It matters who we walk with. It matters who we belong to. It matters, collectively, what we and our people belong to together.
God could have thought it perfectly fine for Adam to live his life in the Garden alone. Thankfully, this was not what He had in mind for humanity and the gift of relationships were part of God’s gracious plan for His creation. Belonging to and connecting with a group of people – a community – is a desire planted inside of us by God. This is why it matters so much who and what we belong to- because the blueprints came from our Creator. We have a holy responsibility to reflect Him.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise will be wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” If Christian community is our goal, it is crucial that we are walking hand-in-hand with people who seek after wisdom. Ephesians 3:17-18 says, “So that Christ my dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”.
When we seek and find the love of Christ, we are able to love others out of that overflow. When we are rooted and established in love, we are able to connect, know others, and be known. When we, as the Lord’s holy people, set out to grasp all this, we find belonging.
“Rooted and established in love.” “Together.” In order to “grasp how wide, long, high, and deep” the love of Christ is (Ephesians 3:18-19). This is our mission within communities. This is what prompts the connection that sustains us. This is Belonging.