Belonging

I have recently been reflecting on that word belong. It is an English word that has been around since the 1400s. While the word has been around for a half of a millennia, the personal need for belonging to some group of individuals has been a part of the human psyche since the dawn of time. Belonging gives us a sense of identity, a sense of being valued, and a support network,

Most of us began life belonging to a family. The family provides for us a small group of persons, tightly connected through our DNA and common experiences. As we mature, we begin to expand our circles of belonging to include others with whom we connect around common interests, aspirations, histories, or faith.

It has been observed that in the English language there is no opposite word for loneliness. I believe the word “belonging” is an appropriate antonym for loneliness. As I read the life of Jesus, I find him regularly connecting with and valuing people who experienced isolation or ostracism in the community where they found themselves because they had a unique ethnicity or spotted history.

These included a person who was a leader of a Roman military unit,[1] a woman from a pagan country,[2] a woman with a tarnished reputation,[3] a woman with five failed marriages,[4] a man with a disability,[5] a criminal sentenced to death,[6] a close friend who disavowed Jesus.[7] Jesus reached out to make the marginalized and ostracized know that they were loved and could belong to the family of God.

May the example of Jesus challenge all persons of faith to demonstrate the all-encompassing love of God and to know that all are invited to belong to the family of God. As we approach the 241st anniversary of the nation to which we belong, let us celebrate the vital freedoms we enjoy today.

Let us also celebrate the history of our nation that has made us a great melting pot of ethnicities and cultures yesterday and today and in that process, live out the spirit of instructions first given to the people of Israel to extend the spirit of belonging: “love the stranger, because you were once strangers.” [Deuteronomy 19:10 KJV].

Timothy Herr

Vice President, Pastoral Service & Corporate Compliance Official


[1] Matthew 8:5-13 – a Roman centurion
[2] Matthew 15:21-28 – a Canaanite woman
[3] Luke 7:36-50
[4] John 4:4-27
[5] John 9
[6] Luke 23:42-43
[7] John 21:15-19

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