Once a person takes the step to believe, they enter into a saving relationship through Jesus Christ that brings them into a position of belonging to God and His church. One of the many things that are common to every person throughout the world, no matter what culture a person finds herself in, is the need to belong. Our need for belonging is hard-wired in our DNA.
I realize that for most of us, our journey to belonging has entered us into some painful experiences. It has encouraged us to do some pretty crazy and shameful things. For this reason, some will find it challenging to open themselves up to belonging. Some have gone as far as to suppress the need to belong and try to convince themselves that they need no one. This is a protective mechanism meant to keep you from pain but will keep you from the profound blessing of walking with God and His people. The good news is that when we come to Christ, He empowers us to walk with Him. He leads us on our journey with Him down the path of embracing our belonging to Him as well as His people, the church.
Here is the simple truth: Believers belong to God and His church and are to be raised in understanding what this means. When we come to Christ, we are: redeemed, made a new creation, adopted as children of God, and heirs to God’s Kingdom and Kingdom Resources. Our new position in Christ is something that ought to draw us to Christ and cause us to embrace our belonging to Him and His church.
We gain a better understanding of this belonging to Christ and His church by exploring a prayer of Jesus recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel. In context, we are given a snapshot of the things that occurred in the Upper Room during the last hours He spent with His beloved friends, the Disciples, before being betrayed, unjustly tried, tortured, and crucified. In John 13, Jesus washes His Disciple’s feet and instituted the New Covenant in His blood. In John 14-16, He gives His disciples last-minute instructions and encouragement. In John 17, He prays His “high priestly prayer” over His disciples as well as overall of His disciples at all times. Then, Jesus went out to face the betrayal, rejection, and death for which He had come into the world.
Christ’s high priestly prayer is the only long, continuous prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. It is so moving to realize that in these final hours before His passion, where He would die for the sins of us all, we, His followers, were on His heart. Jesus prays: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (Jn 17:20). Jesus not only prayed for His Disciples there in the Upper Room, but he also had the heart and vision to pray beyond them. Jesus prayed for those who would come to faith by the testimony of these disciples. He prayed for us! Notice, Jesus made no distinction between those who had heard Him personally and those who had heard through others.
Then Jesus prays that “we may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). Jesus prays for unity among all believers, even as among the original Disciples. Jesus prayed that all believers might rise above their different backgrounds and understand their unity in Him.
Here is a good question: What makes unity so hard? Sin is the great dividing element. The perfectly holy (Christlike) would be perfectly united. The more like Christ believers are, the more they love their Lord and one another, the closer union they have with each other. Notice that the unity Christ prays over us is like that between God, the Son, and God the Father. If the Father is in Christ and Christ is in us, then the Father is in us. We are drawn into the very life of God, and the very life of God is love.
Amazingly, Christ prays, that Unity among God’s people helps the world to believe that the Father sent the Son. Think about it. Even as Christ prays for His Disciples in the Upper Room and includes us, all His followers, of all times, He looks beyond us to those who have yet to believe, which stands in need of the witness generated by the unity of His church. The Lord desires His church to be a place of belonging. When we believe in Christ for our salvation, not only do we belong to God but also we belong to His Church. God’s church is a place where those far from Christ can find salvation and loving acceptance – a place they were created to belong.
If we don’t believe we belong to God, we will profess we believe, but will then go about doing life as we always have without receiving the fullness of being His. If we don’t believe we belong to God’s church, we will profess we believe, but will then go about doing life on our own terms without benefit of community with others in unity with Christ. If we Don’t believe we belong to God and His church, it is not just each of us who misses out, but the world around us is without a witness Jesus prayed and offered them in His name. It is impossible to become all Christ has for us if we don’t learn and accept what it means to belong to Him and His church.
Have you received Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe? If you have not taken this step of faith, your journey begins there. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, the next step is to learn and accept what it means to belong to Christ and His church. If you haven’t already won’t, you take that step? Let’s help one another learn what it means to belong to God and His church. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!