There is a need in all of us to find belonging.
A place where we can kick our shoes off and sit reclining with our feet up on the coffee table. A setting that feels as much like home as our own dwelling does. A refuge that makes us feel like we can be ourselves without an ounce of pretense or pose.
And God gave each of us a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. A community in which we feel safe and valued. We look for this in many different ways. Some people find this in their work or club. Sometimes people find this with their school or church. Sometimes people look for this in dangerous places like gangs or in shady business associates.
But why are people driven to look for community away from the positive elements of what it can be?
In Judges 12 there is a story that talks about a group of people called the Ephramites. They had fought a war against the Gileadites. The Gileadites had captured a section of the Jordan that led to Ephraim, and so whenever an Ephramim would ask to cross over the men of Gilead would ask, "are you an Ephramite"? If he replied "no", they said, "all right, say Shibboleth." Because they knew that Ephramites could not pronounce the "h" because of the different region they lived their accent was slightly different. So if the man said "Sibboleth" they would kill him. The story says they killed 42,000 Ephraimites at that time.
How often do we require certain things of people in order for them to join our community. Do we judge others because they don't know our "lingo". How many times have we rejected because others have not met our requirements? What is it about us that wants everyone to look and act like us? Why do we withhold love simply because someone doesn't pronounce "Shibboleth" correctly?
I am reminded of the old Dr Seus book. "The Sneetches". The star belly sneetches thought they were so much better than the plain belly sneetches. The ones who had "no stars upon thar's".
What lengths do we go to in our community to reach the ones who have no stars upon thar's?
Do we like the Gileadites reject and perhaps even kill with our words and lack of love? Maybe it's not always intentional. Maybe it's just ignorance.
But I think I must learn to be more proactive in this area. Because if others don't find community with me, a sense of belonging here, they will look for it somewhere else. And if I profess to be the hands and feet of Jesus I should be thinking about how those hands and feet look to those around me.
Are they warm and inviting?
Are they tender and open?
Are they serving and sacrificial?
Christian Community should be a place where all are invited in.
Come as you are put your feet up on the furniture and leave with your heart a little larger to give to others out of what you have received.