John 15:19 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
We all have an innate desire to belong, but if we choose the wrong place to belong, we get into deep trouble. That is the biggest, most basic pull of gangs. Those who get caught up in gangs generally lack an effective father-figure in their lives, which lays them open to the pull of a group that will both provide support and demand allegiance, quite regardless of what they do. That is simply a focused version of the general pull of the world, and the remedy is the same: an awareness of our Father. Jesus chooses us, as He says here, not on the basis of our ability but on the basis of our availability. That’s why Peter tells us to “make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:10) God has an “all-volunteer army!” We can’t accomplish anything strictly on our own, but the choice to allow God to work through us is ours, and is an essential part of belonging to God. As Jesus says here, the down side of belonging to Him is actively not belonging to the world. In the short term that can seem pretty rough, frankly, especially for someone who doesn’t have much spiritual maturity. The world can be very seductive at times! However, just like walking through a bar district in the full light of day exposes how tawdry it is, the light of God’s truth exposes all the lies of the devil for what they are. All the enticements the world and the devil use are temporal, temporary, whereas God offers us eternal life, and “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:28) That’s where we need to choose to belong.
Growing up as a Caucasian in Japan, a missionary kid in an Air Force Dependents School (or a fish out of water in the US), belonging has been an issue for me all my life. I have gone through all sorts of responses to it all, trying to fit in at times and actively withdrawing at times, being hurt by rejection (real or perceived) and glorying in my differences. I will be eternally grateful that God blocked some of my attempts to belong, to the wrong groups or in the wrong way. I have had to grow in my awareness of availability being the key to being secure in belonging to Christ. Since I am still a Caucasian in Japan, sometimes the old wounds of rejection flare up, but I have received a lot of healing in that area. Japanese society places a lot of weight on belonging, and it is often a major issue in someone becoming a Christian. We have a member here who never felt accepted in society, and when I offered him baptism he rejoiced to accept, more for the sake of belonging than because he understood all the theological implications. His spiritual and emotional growth since then have been noticed by many, to their surprise. I need to make the whole issue of belonging very clear, both to express God’s acceptance of us as we are and His requirement that we yield everything to Him, allowing Him to change and use us.
Father, thank You for this clear Word. Thank You for the opportunity yesterday to talk with and encourage a brother who has been experiencing the pull of the world. I pray that everyone in this church would not mourn their not belonging to the world, but rather rejoice to belong to You, living as Your agents, bright lights in this dark world, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!