I took a photo of a plant outside the building for today’s creative meditation for Lent. The word prompt was “Belong.” The bold striped leaves have thrived despite everything a discouragingly cold winter could throw at it. Each leaf is growing in a different direction, but all are connected to the same root. All receive sustenance from the same source. It reminds me of belonging.
In the time when Jesus and the disciples walked the earth, belonging to a family or tribe or nation was important. None of this lone ranger, I-did-it-my-way stuff. Losing your place in a community was (and for most still is) a terrible punishment. Shame was both the cause and result of rejection. A person who brought shame on the family by an act considered to be disloyal was expelled. That’s why leprosy was a disease feared more than most. “Leper” has become a word synonymous with the opposite of inclusion.
For the majority of the world’s people, (and increasingly so in the West) belonging is more important than being right or wrong. It’s all about your connections, your family name, or your tribal identity. (Which may help explain why some people with extremely loose interpretations of the law are voted into positions of power.)
We call it “cancel culture” or “boycotting” now, but rejection has had many names in the past. Historically, those who failed to honour the group were banished, shunned, excommunicated, or disinherited. It’s an effective tool for maintaining power and control. Various religious institutions have used it for ages. We see an example in the Bible when the parents of the man who Jesus healed of blindness were afraid to respond during the temple leaders’ inquest lest they be thrown out.
Jesus told his followers they could expect the same kind of treatment he experienced. What greater rejection could there be than the “honour killing” calls of “Crucify him!” that the mob in Jerusalem shouted?
Jesus took time to assure his followers they did belong. They belonged with him. Those who trust in him now also become part of the family of God and members of the household of faith. They are the called-out sons and daughters from every tribe and every nation who become one as part of the body of Christ. They grow from the same nourishing root.
Through Christ, we are not only forgiven, but welcomed into the family of God. One day we will be welcomed as the honoured, shame-free, guilt-free bride without spot or wrinkle at the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is where we truly belong. The Lover of our souls will never leave us or reject us. He promised.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV)