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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Fourth (Belonging)

Are you a child of God? How do you know? There are a few references to children of God, all in the New Testament, so we're going to take a look at that. But first, where do you get your sense of belonging? If you were to pick the one group of people that you feel you belong to most, who would that be? Your family? Your church? Your work? Your friends? Believers as a whole (the ekklesia)?

It's interesting how, in general, the group a person feels they belong to most can have the most impact on who they are. In fact, people seek that feeling out, even going so far as to break the law to get it. You hear stories about gang initiations, or hazing incidents. Essentially, the feeling of belonging they get, or at least hope they will get, overcomes any hint of compassion or kindness for others.

Did you know there's no real word for belong in scripture? The idea is definitely there, but if I look up the word belong to translate to Greek, for example, I get ανήκω. This word does not occur in the New Testament, or in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). In Hebrew scripture, in the one place where "belong" is used in relation to people belonging, the word belong is inferred by the word attah, meaning "you" (Genesis 32:17).

In this particular case, the question posed is literally translated as "To whom you?" You'll find the same in the places where belong is italicized for the KJV or NKJV (meaning the translators let you know that word wasn't actually there). All other uses of "belong" are in the context of objects as they belong to a person. In most of those cases, it's translated from hayah, which has multiple definitions, one of which is "become" or "be."

You'll find something similar in Greek. What's interesting is when you look at the first example, it actually uses the word eimi, which is a basic Greek verb expressing the idea of being, or "to be." So in this verse, the phrase is literally translated to "Christ's you are" instead of "belong to Christ" (Mark 9:41). In the only other verse in the New Testament referring to people belonging, the same word is used to convey the same idea (Acts 27:23).

So the specific Greek or Hebrew words for belong are not there, but they are inferred from the words for "to be." Then we come to what I'll call the third person description of belonging. To be called the "children of God" you have to belong to Him. So, let's learn a little about the "children of God."

As I said, this phrase is only found in the New Testament, with a similar phrase, "children of the Lord your God," occurring in only one verse of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14:1). In that particular instance, it was pointed out that the Israelites were the children of Yehovah as a way to set them apart from the people of the world. They were commanded not to do the things they do, in this case cutting themselves and their hair for those that had died.

Back in the New Testament, we are given some characteristics of being a child of God. Peacemakers are children of God (Matthew 5:9) Children of the resurrection are children of God (Luke 20:36). Children of God are scattered around the world (John 11:52). Children of God are heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). Children of God live in liberty (Romans 8:21). Children of God are the children of the promise (Romans 9:8). Children of God have faith in Jesus the Messiah (Galatians 3:26). Children of God are born of God (1 John 3:9-10). And finally, children of God love God and keep His commandments (1 John 5:2).

John also expounds on being born of God, which obviously is another way of saying being a child of God. Those born of God not only does not sin, but cannot sin (1 John 3:9). Interestingly, John makes the statement that everyone who loves is born of God (1 John 4:7). We'll get back to that in a moment. John also tells us that those born of God overcome the world through something we've taken a pretty good look at before: faith (1 John 5:4). They also protect themselves from the evil one (1 John 5:18).

So everyone that loves is a child of God? Seems a bit all-encompassing, doesn't it? John tells us that love comes from God, so naturally those that love also come from God. You might wonder, what about those that look like they love but there is some ulterior motive or perhaps they love and there's something sinister beneath. Remember that the word for love here is agape, which is the unconditional love that requires nothing in return. I would argue that most of what you see in the world, most of what the world calls love, does not fall into this category.

In that case, I definitely agree with John, because this requirement significantly narrows the number of people that could fall into that category. The thing is, most of what you see is that the benevolence of an individual is dependent on the group to which the individual belongs. When encountering someone of their group, the level of benevolence increases. When the person is not of their group, the level of benevolence decreases, or even motivates the individual to avoid or fear that person.

This goes back to the parable of the Samaritan, and the agape love he gave to the assaulted man (Luke 10:30-37). The priest and the Levite saw the man as an outsider, not their "neighbor" as Jesus put it. They were not inclined to help, and even went to the opposite side of the road to pass. If they had given the agape love, it would have been an indication that they were a child of God, however they placed their worldly group of people, the group to which they felt belonging, above the fact that someone was in need.

It's not easy to feel the belonging we have as being a child of God, because this is a spiritual belonging and not the physical belonging that is so easily identifiable in the natural. And since it's not easy to feel, it's not easy to remember that belonging and keep it above the natural belonging we easily identify day to day. This is where we need to be firm, steadfast and confident in our status as a child of God. When a person is in need and the world would look at them and walk to the other side of the road because he or she "looks sketchy," or "might have a weapon," or "just wants to take advantage of me," we need to be the one to listen to the Holy Spirit's movement in us and take care of that person. Give them the agape love.

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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