Belonging Done Right

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us”—1 John 4:11–12 (NLT)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”—Acts 2:42–46 (NIV)

One of the hardest things about being a teacher was breaking up student conflict. It felt nearly impossible to make two polar-opposite children get along, much less be friends. One particular day, two girls in my first grade class started quarreling and calling each other names. In my attempt to help them, I pointed out how in our classroom, they both were my beloved students whom I needed to work together in order to help the others in our class. Still, they couldn’t see past the other’s offense. Their natural instinct was to look to their own interest, even if it meant hurting the other.

This gave me a clear picture of what sin does to us as a Church. Our call to belong to one another and live out God’s love is one that doesn’t come naturally to us because of the effects of sin, but it is possible because of grace.

In the beginning, God created us to live in harmony and fellowship with Him, but sin separated us from His love. Sin entered every crevice of our hearts, staining it with greed, pride, selfishness, and lust. We needed a radical heart transplant to live out of grace rather than our own self-centeredness. Jesus Christ came to this world so we might be reconciled to God and, in doing so, He brought us into the family of God. He gave us His spirit, so we might walk in the Spirit and live a life pleasing to Him instead of the life of sin we once lived.

Understanding both our sin and God’s grace allows us to live out the love and unity God intended for us to live. You see, on the cross, Jesus bridged the gap that stood between us and God. He grafted all who would believe in Him into the family of God. In doing this, He also eradicated every social-cultural, racial, political, and financial divide that separated us from one another. The gospel makes us equals before God—more sinful than we ever could imagine and more loved than we could ever hope.

So, our call is to respond to God’s grace by living life together and loving as Christ loves us. This is the hardest, yet most honorable call we have as believers. For if we truly love one another in the counter-cultural, audacious way we’re loved, then the world would truly know God (John 17:20–23). Our unity—our open, vulnerable, messy, imperfect, yet binding walk together; our living as members of one body in Christ—would point a lost world to their Maker and, in doing so, invite them to join the family. We were made to be known, loved, and to belong.

Pause: Do you love others in the Church? Especially those who are not in your circle or are different from you?

Practice: Sign up to serve with a group of people you don’t yet know and see what the Lord does through this time together!

Pray: Father, I confess it’s hard to love as You love me. I lavish in Your gift of grace, yet fail to extend it to my neighbor. Oh, Lord, I need Your help. Help me to love the way You love me, not only in words, but with my actions. Help the world to see You through us, Your Church. Amen.

About the Author

Gabriella Bemis

Gabriella Bemis serves as a volunteer for Calvary’s communications and worship teams. She holds an M.A. in psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about integrating her knowledge of human behavior with the truth of God’s word. When she is not writing resources or singing at church, Gabi loves to paint, cook, and enjoy time outdoors with her family and friends.