Here we are, at the end of another year. 2017 has hastened away and 2018 has opened the door. What lies ahead for us in 2018? Life. Love. Peace. A life permeated with longing and belonging filled with desire.
What does belonging look like in a loving, healthy community of people? True, some like to draw away and be “alone” but the deep necessity of life is belonging – it is something each and every one of us needs. To belong. To be a part of something vital and life giving. To be free to be who we are and to participate and have a part in the lives of others. To live to the fullest what we are designed and destined to be. In the community of the Body of Christ, we are called to be, to belong, to long, to love, to live. Can any of truly exist fully with out the life-giving love of another? We wither, shrivel, and die in an existence that only includes ourselves. We miss out on the essence of the other – the life, joy, pain, belonging, presence and absence of who they are and what that means to us. And they are denied the same thing from us when we keep to ourselves and don’t have intimate interaction with others. We NEED one another. John O’Donahue states,
No individual can develop or grow in an isolated life. We need community desperately. Community offers us a creative tension which awakens and challenges us to grow. No community we belong to fits our longing exactly. Community refines our presence. In a community no one person can have his own way. There are others to be considered and accommodated, too. In this way, we are taught compassion and care. We learn so much from community without ever realizing how totally we absorb its atmosphere. The community also challenges us to inhabit to the full our own individuality.
We are ones that belong. We belong to God. We belong to each other. Why and how? Because the love of God obligates us to love one another and be actively involved by and through that love in the lives of those around us. Not as a means of control, but as an expression of love. We are obligated to love one another. I John 4:11 NIV states, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
One commentator on the Bible wrote in speaking of I John 4:11, “The love God has shown becomes the motive for our responding to others properly. John’s use of ‘ought’ (opheilomen) infers that there is an inner motivation and obligation to love others. Further, this obligation or debt cannot be postponed for any reason. It is one we rightly owe. John is insisting that loving God and loving others cannot be divorced, which is exactly what Jesus taught in Matt 22:37-40” (Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, pg. 181). In the original Greek, the word is ὀφείλομεν (opheilomen, ought or obligated), and this takes it from a question of something that we can simply say in response with ‘yes or no,’ but it makes it something so deep, personally intimate, and unavoidable, that it must be addressed immediately.
Reach out today to someone whom you haven’t talked to or seen in a while. To someone you work with that you sense needs to know that they are a part of something vital, that they too belong. Why? Because they need you and you need them. Also it is an act of love and it helps us to fulfill the obligation we have to love one another.