The doorbell kept ringing at my hosts’ house as a dozen guests arrived.
In my recent visit to New England for a convention, I arranged to visit my family of faith who had supported me in my formative high school years.
The gathered guests were a sampling of the people who readily accepted me when my family moved across the country. They had prayed for me through our epic transition, our family’s housing dramas and the loss of my first grandparent. They had involved me in church life and celebrated two academic milestones.
Coming around a table was and still is a common activity. This is where we conversed, dined, laughed, prayed and shared from our hearts. This became a foundation from which we healed from some spiritual wounds and found renewed purpose to be friends helping friends become fully devoted followers of Jesus.
Our recent evening carried many stories of love found, lost and multiplied; of growing families and processing changing family dynamics; of health challenges and victories; of ministries growing, changing and renewing; of belonging together as a family of faith through good and hard times.
The theme of belonging brought a stream of reflective thoughts as I traveled back home to the Pacific Northwest. What does it mean to belong? What are the core characteristics of belonging and inviting people to belong as well?
A sense of belonging, feeling connected and united with a common purpose, is a basic and significant human need.
It's the feeling of being an integral part of a group, place or belief system. It's about feeling at home within your faith, knowing that you are loved and accepted by God, and finding a spiritual family in your fellow Christians. It's the assurance that you are a valued member of the family of God.
Mark 9 recounts telling sequence of interactions about belonging. Jesus asks His disciples why they were disputing among each other while they walked. They were debating who was the greatest among them. Jesus invites a child over to Him and begins His teaching moment about being a servant of all, caring for His children, sharing acts of kindness and extending invitations to belong.
Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to forbid sectarianism, the excessive attachment to people just like you, and the prejudice, discrimination, exclusion or hatred can arise in related conflicts. Jesus goes on to promise that whoever does a good deed in His name will receive a reward.
We can contribute to creating a more connected world by emulating the spirit of acceptance and unity I found around the tables of my youth. We must be willing to receive others with open hearts, eliminate prejudice and exclusion and actively engage in acts of kindness and service, just as Jesus taught.
Table Talk Prompt
What can you do to help foster a lifelong sense of belonging for all generations at your church home?