Afraid To Belong

I think you’re afraid of belonging.

Belonging to something goes against the grain of our culture. We’re meant to be individuals. We’re meant to be concerned purely with the self. We’re meant to do what we like in this day and age. Life is for our own pleasure, our own enjoyment, and our own fun. Why then would we belong to anything?

Despite our individualistic culture there is something about us that wants to belong. Look around, football clubs have members, Facebook has friends, Twitter has followers, wars have armies, politics have parties, institutions have chapters, and beer drinkers (or parma eaters) have locals. With belonging comes a sense of being part of something bigger. There is a feeling of commitment and mutual appreciation. There is a knowledge that other people are like us, they are centred on the same things we are. There is a togetherness, a mate-ship, a team bond.

This might all be well and good but there is also something within us that makes us afraid to belong. Belonging means we have to be investors, investors of time, energy, and emotion. Belonging means we are exposed, vulnerable, and out in the open. Belonging means disappointment, hurt, and heartache. Belonging isn’t easy and that’s why we’re afraid.

When the footy team never makes the eight, when the political party is stuck in opposition, when the family is in turmoil, when colleagues aren’t pulling their weight – situations like these make belonging hard. The same goes for the church, to belong to a local congregation is going to be hard. When 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, when the offering decreases, when the rosters aren’t being filled, when the people won’t turn up, continuing to belong to a church is tough.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the church being like a body. And in v14-16 he says,

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And, if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less part of the body”.

Paul is telling us, whether we like it or not, that there is no excuse for not belonging to the body. While the church may be made up of people with a number of different gifts there is still a responsibility to belong. Not everyone is going to be the preacher or the Sunday school teacher or the offering steward but that doesn’t mean we are excused from belonging.

We like to belong to something but we don’t like to commit. We like to belong in quiet ways. After all, it’s nice to sit up the back and hear pleasant music and words wash over us for an hour. But hey, getting involved in the constitution committee, having people around for lunch, building a relationship with a teenager, helping out with crèche, playing the guitar, or (dare I say it) beginning a new ministry, well, that’s not nice – that’s messy! That actually means it’s time to get our hands dirty, invest time and money, invest emotional energy.

So, whether you’re part of the 20% that does most of the work or the person who wafts in and out of church buildings each Sunday perhaps it’s time to evaluate where you’re at. Perhaps it’s time to commit to belong, truly belong, or are you too afraid?

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