How To Know You Belong
There are many ways to find your place, to know you belong. Different tribes have different criteria.
Sometimes you gotta be born in. You get your first family, for better or worse, just by coming into the world among these people.
These are blood ties, that never let you go.
Sometimes you realize you belong, or you don’t belong, in one group or another, because of a personal feature you didn’t ask to have – your race, gender, age, orientation. You’re at ease in some circles and you’re watching your back in others, just because of that particular thing.
You can belong to some communities because of a passion. You love model trains or the Broncos or Slayer, and you find your people because they share this love with you.
You may wish to join an elite group, to which admission is earned, through aptitude and perseverance. After great striving, you are at last a Marine, an Olympian, a scholar, and for the rest of your days, this is your clan, your kindred.
And of course, some circles you just buy your way into. If you have the money, you can be a member of a social club, or you can have a house that allows your kid to go to a certain school. And then you’re in.
Throughout the narrative of the Gospel, Jesus invites and challenges his listeners to envision a future reality called The Kingdom of God. It’s a place where people will belong, but it’s a different kind of belonging.
Depending on which bible verse you’re reading, the kingdom may seem like a distant future thing that comes about after the end of life as we know it, or it may seem like something that’s taking shape in the here and now, as people adopt Jesus’ teachings and example.
But whether it’s a long way off or it’s happening before our very eyes, the Kingdom of God is a place of peace, safety, provision and welcome. The kingdom is a community of grace, a community that everyone will want to be a part of.
And that begs a certain question: What does it take to get in? How can you secure membership with this club? Who gets to know that they belong, in this kingdom community?
Because it’s clear from the outset that you don’t get to be part of the Kingdom based on any of the criteria that we’re accustomed to using to establish eligibility. Who your parents are, what your resume says, what’s in your checking account – these details mean nothing in the Kingdom of God.
And, lest the devout assume any particular status, the scriptures cast doubt on whether religious affiliation matters in God’s Kingdom (for more on that, see Matthew 25:31-46).
To begin understanding Jesus’ teaching about what it means to belong in a beloved community, and in the kingdom of God, read Matthew 5:1-12
This passage will not put the topic to rest – you’ll still have some questions to puzzle over. But it will help you imagine a divine fellowship and a holy belonging, based on human experience that is entirely different from what usually qualifies someone for a place at the table.
Jesus says that God blesses:
The materially and spiritually poor
The people in mourning
The weak and the humble
Those who hunger and thirst for justice
The pure in heart
Anyone who is persecuted for seeking justice
Anyone who is hated and persecuted for trying to live as Christ calls them to live.
Reading this list, you may have noticed that these are all things that disqualify you from membership with various clubs and cohorts, in the world as we know it. If you’re poor or weak or pure or persecuted, you’ve probably discovered all sorts of places where you’re not welcome.
Now imagine that Almighty God sees you, and sees your abuse and your rejection, and treats these facts as proof. “You belong here,” God says. “You belong with me.”
The Table is a Christian church in Davenport, Iowa, seeking transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays at 5pm
102 E. 2nd St. Davenport