“Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian” (Ephesians 2:19 TLB).
Belonging was formally recognized as one of the most profound human needs by American psychologist, Abraham Maslow. In a 1943 paper, he described a “hierarchy of needs” that placed love and “belongingness” in its third tier of foundational importance. Only physiological and safety needs such as food, water, air and shelter were given greater importance.
Maslow’s psychological theory recognized what others had claimed for centuries, that humans have an innate need for belonging. Yet, this awareness of the need does not explain its origin. From where does our need for belonging come?
In the third century, Augustine of Hippo, said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Augustine believed that God made us with this desire for connection. He believed we were made by God, for God.
Three centuries before Augustine, Jesus prayed that this divine connection would be restored, not just between man and God, but also between believers. Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:20-23 NIV).
This oneness between God and man was made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The sin that separated us from God since Adam’s fall was paid in full by Jesus. Faith in Christ’s work on the cross reconciles us to God and also gives us a message of reconciliation to others. It makes it possible for us to keep the great commandment to love God and to love others as ourselves. It fulfills our “belongingness” need to its very core.
Christ’s prayer is being answered. Those who believe in Him are being adopted into God’s family.
Yet, the three enemies of this oneness remain active. The flesh, the world and the devil, all continue to work to divide and isolate us from God and His family. Their voices are loud. They scream of hatred and racism. They point out our differences and the hypocrisies of others. They urge us to get even and never forgive. They push us to pull away, to abandon, to divorce, and even to kill.
One of the most powerful parts of Christ’s prayer is that “the world might believe” because it would see our unity. That the lonely and the orphaned would see the family of God, loving and accepting one another, and be reminded of the primordial purpose of being made for fellowship with God.
As many of our WCC members traveled on short term mission trips to distant parts of the world this summer, we found more similarities than differences. The culture and color of the peoples in Uganda and Guatemala may have been different than ours, but their hearts were the same. And when we worked and worshiped the Lord together, our sense of belonging to one another was overwhelming. We may have been with them for only a few days, but the deepness of our belongingness can only be explained by the miracle of Christ’s prayer being fulfilled in us.
Don’t listen to the voices that urge you to push away from the table. Get connected. Get right with God and others. Jesus is saving you a seat. You don’t have to be alone anymore. You belong in God’s family with all His other children.