We Belong To God
I am going to spend the next several weeks fleshing out the Brief Statement of Faith of the PCUSA. It appears last in the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions, as it is the most recent. I hope my meditations will help you, dear reader grow in faith in God and deepen your walk with Christ. Even if you don’t consider yourself Presbyterian or if you are seeking to understand what it means to be a Christian, I think these meditations will help.
The first line says that in life and death we belong to God.
What are we affirming in saying this line?
We know, what is meant by the first part of the line, but the second half needs more fleshing out.
We are the community of faith, the body of Christ, the people of God who read or recite this line, those who are following or at very least trying to follow Jesus in word and deed. We trust Jesus to be Lord and Savior. We are in the midst of responding to the call to come and die to find life eternal. The ‘we’ in this line is not just Presbyterians, but everyone everywhere who trust in the risen Savior.
We are not to seek status or to think highly of ourselves, as if we won the lottery or some contest, we are to be the church the visible sign of salvation offered to all freely through Christ Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t concerned about his own status. You will not find Jesus on Facebook. Jesus doesn’t tweet. Jesus was more concerned about relationships and bringing the good news to those that needed it the most. As Christians, We live in grace and peace and bring healing and celebration to those without it. Sometimes this will be possible, other times not. Some will enjoy our company, others not. Yet, no matter who we encounter, we are to show love. Sometimes, what is right doesn’t seem like the most loving thing, but we do what is right because we love them. Don’t let wicked behavior induce you to do wrong, but overcome evil by returning good for evil. This sums up how we are to live in the world. This sums up what kind of community we are to be here and now. This sums up what the ‘we’ in this line means.
The second word Belong is powerful. We all want to belong to something to someone. Our whole life, we seek the thing, place, and person we belong to—for the love that eludes, friendships that are imperfect and end without a reason, and a place where we will be safe. We seek to belong to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We crave connection and meaning. We are constantly looking for the person and place where we will finally fit in. This world only disappoints or at best imperfectly and partially fills our desire to be in love, community, and fellowship. We were made for so much more. That is what the entire Bible is telling us that is the meaning of Jesus rising on the third day. We live between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We live between death and life. Our whole being cries out for the healing and celebration that only God can and will deliver. Created for another world, we will only be fulfilled fully there. God is the only one who will never let us down. His faithfulness endures forever. Yet, He calls us to reach out and spread the good news of Christ.
Now, we come to the fourth and final word—God.
It’s important to know who this God is that the Statement of faith is addressing. The God we belong to is a specific God, the God of the bible, Jesus’ Abba and the first person of the 3-in-1 dance that is the trinity. Allow me to flesh this out.
First and most important, God loves everyone. Not a single person, animal, or section of our universe is outside the love and care of God. Every life counts. Every life matters. Every life is gift. God sees the pain of this life, hears our cry, and understands the brokenness and misery all too common to life on earth. God is involved and taking the world to a certain place. God will have his way. The world will be flooded with divine love and light. It will happen. The party that is Jesus’ Kingdom will happen. God is busy gracing, embracing, and blessing the entire universe and us in it.
Second, God is not about rescuing us from our humanity, but showing us how to live life to the fullest, love everyone, and stand up for the little, least, and lost. Our task is not to judge, but to love, not to bash people with their shortcomings, but tell them of God’s incredible love for them, not to beat people up with the Bible but share the story of a God doesn’t need us but wants us. Jesus doesn’t want us on our knees. He loves us into our better self, so that we can follow his lead in showing the world God’s love.
Third, No matter what you have done or have not done, God loves you. God loves you personally and powerfully. No one, absolutely no one is outside of the love of God. We are all included in the loving embrace of God, because we are created and constantly being remade in the image of God. We become sons and daughters of God by loving everyone indiscriminately, just as God does.
Nothing can separate us from God, but there are things we can and should do that more fully manifest the love of God in our life and the lives of others. This is not about earning God’s love but responding to it, because we are compelled by it. A smile, greeting a stranger, talking with someone, helping another, opening a door, weeding a neighborhood garden, picking up trash can mean be a simple way of stepping out of our own concerns and saying God loves you let me show you.
Fourth, God refuses to be put into a box. He defies all easy definitions. The moment you put Him in a box, He breaks out destroying the box and every other box. God is not a well-behaved noun that just sits still. God is a wild, free, and irreverent verb. God isn’t safe, but he is good. (C S Lewis) The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. (Rob Bell) God defies easy explanations and readymade categories.
Let’s tie this up. What does it mean to not say this first life of the Statement of Faith, but affirm it and accept it as our own?
If God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into our life, He’ll do the same thing in us that He did in Jesus, causing us to live vibrant fresh life in Christ. When God lives and breathes in us, as surely as he did in Jesus, we are delivered from dead life to eternal life. God makes us into the people we are to be to live the life we are to live. This is not because we deserve it, because we don’t, but because we trust God to do what Jesus promised he would do. We take God at his word and hold fast to faith. In trusting God, in making God our center, we live into the grace lavished on us.
On our own, we cannot live up to and into this call, but Jesus gathers us into community to become the people of God forgiven sinners united and living life to the full in the spirit. Heaven is not about some later paradise devoid of the messiness of humanity and unattached to life as we experience it now. Heaven is this life the one we are living now fulfilled and full of the all the blessings that God promises. Heaven is a living breathing growing experience of the divine.
I don’t know how it will look in detail, yet I believe it will be much like this life only more so. I don’t need to worry about later. God will handle the later. I need to be occupied with living now as I hope to live then. Heaven is the mysterious promise hidden in the here and now.
So, live the best now that you can in the blessed assurance that the later will be even better, greater, and glorious than anything we can hope, dream, or experience now.
We belong to God and in the end that is good news.
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