What do you think of when you look at this picture? Do you think of “belonging”? I do. This is the official kimono of Gracie Barra and every Gracie Barra student has to wear this gi (or at least a gi with the red circle and the white G) or they can’t train. Why? Money. Actually, money is only a side benefit of everyone wearing the same gi. The real reason is that it builds a sense of belonging among the students. There is no doubt among those who belong as to what Gracie Barra is all about.
I have trained in the martial arts since I was a young child – taekwondo, judo, wrestling, tai chi, karate, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. One of the most surprising things I have learned during my time spent in the dojo is that every one is looking for a place to belong. The reason people pay a monthly fee to let others kick them, choke them and try to break their arm is because they want to belong to something that is bigger than they are. (Think about how much bad doctrine we put up with in the church for the sake of having a place to belong.)
This need to belong is part of our design. In the creation narratives (Genesis 1 and 2) we read that at the end of each day God declared it was good. Actually, at the end of the sixth day, when God created humanity, God said, “It is very good.” However, God did declare something “not good.” After God fashioned Adam out of the ground he noticed that Adam was lonely, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
It is not good to be alone. Why? Well, we are created in the very image of God, who by nature is relational and communal existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is this relational image that we bear and that propels us into relationships where we seek to belong. In fact, our entire story is one of seeking a place to belong, a place to call home. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, God’s people have been searching for a place to belong.
Abraham had to leave his homeland for a place that God would show him. Jacob’s children had to move to Egypt after arriving at the land God had shown his grandfather. Years later God’s people found themselves on the move again, this time out of Egypt and into the wilderness, looking for a place to call home. They failed to drive out the inhabitants and sought belonging among strange people who served strange gods and in the long run they found themselves in exile.
Even the New Testament tells us that we are strangers and aliens living in a land that is not our own. Exiled from the Garden of Eden we are waiting for the day when the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ ushers in the new Jerusalem and we find ourselves dwelling in the kingdom of God surrounded by a multitude of people singing God’s praises.
Jesus had some interesting things to say about belonging. Some of us will try really hard to belong to “worldly” groups, to find our home among the world.
I have given them your word and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14)
Thinking about belonging to your family?
Someone told Jesus, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-50)
Where do we belong? I think the answer is, together. The way the early church discovered belonging was through Jesus Christ who made it possible for,
All who believed to spend much time together in the temple, breaking bread at home eating with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:44-47)
In the “homes,” whatever shape or form they may take, with our “brothers, sisters and mothers,” eating, studying, and praising God together is where we belong. Where do you belong?