“Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit.” (Malachi 2:15a)
Our Identity is strongly related to a sense of belonging. We often identify ourselves as part of a larger group of people. For example we might identify ourselves as belonging to a particular club, or a graduate from a particular school, college or university. We might also identify ourselves with a sporting club, a charity, a church, or any number of other social groups. Some people are also proud of their family name or the company they work for. Others vehemently associate themselves with their country, political party, or regional alliances.
Whatever the case, as with almost everything that is covered in these devotionals, there is nothing wrong with these associations. The issue is that we need to make sure that we do not gain our identity out of a sense of belonging to them. We need to be careful that we don’t become so close to these organisations that we can’t live without them or let them go if we need to.
Those who claim to follow Jesus can’t compromise on these things. Jesus made this clear when people tried to associate with him. He never refused to associate with sinners. He even ate at the house of Pharisees and teachers of the law, even though he didn’t agree with them. But he refused to accept people with divided allegiances.
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9 v57-62)
Our identity can be in nothing but Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with belonging, but there is an issue if these things take priority over serving God. Unless your focus is on the following the Lord then we are not fit for service in the Kingdom of God.
Whatever other associations we have we need to know that first and foremost both our body and our spirit belong to him. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)
More than this, I believe we need to use all our other relationships for the purpose of the Kingdom. As the apostle Paul said, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible,” (1 Corinthians 9:19) Just because our allegiance is with God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard for others, for the sake of the Kingdom.
What I am really saying is that our lives belong to God, so we should use everything we have, even our families, work mates and all other relationships, for the glory of God. We are not working for anyone else, we are not even working for ourselves; in everything we do we should be working for the kingdom of God and using everything we have to this end.
The only way we can live this way on a long term basis is if we become a new creation, if we re-invent ourselves and change our identity. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20a) “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
We all need a sense of belonging. Just remember that first and foremost we belong to God, and this will give us the only identity we need.