People Belonging To God
The community of the church, the ecclesia, the community of the people who are “called out” is a people who are to be shaped not by the world out from which they have been called but by the God to whom that calling has brought them. The call of God in Jesus Christ trains us to put away the ways of our former “belonging” and to put on the ways of our new belonging, our belonging to God.
This new way of life as God’s people comes from our learning the grace of God in Jesus Christ through the gospel. The grace of God works a transfer from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son of God (Col. 1:13.) And learning the grace of God – the forgiveness of all our sins! – means that we have been taught to put off the old ways and to put on the new. We have come into what one old divine called, “the expulsive power of a new affection.” We have had the love of God poured out in our hearts – and so we know the love of God and so love Him, and His people.
Belonging to God is not a private, individual experience – it is a shared participation in Jesus Christ with the rest of His body, the church. We are members of one another just as we are members in Christ. And so that means that belonging to God in true righteousness and holiness means belonging to one another also in true righteousness and holiness. So a whole lot of things are ruled “out” and a whole lot are ruled “in” by the reign of the gracious Lord among us. Lying and deceit – out. Truthful and loving speaking – in. Undying anger – out. Anger that quickly seeks reconciliation – in. Stealing and cheating – out. Seeking good for each other through diligent work – in. Obscene talk and malicious gossip – out. Speech that builds up and is fit to be said anywhere – in. Nastiness, divisiveness, bitterness – out. Kindness, tenderness, forgiveness in.
Ah! Forgiveness – in! Forgiveness that matches the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. This must mean that there will be a need for forgiveness in the body. So, this body in Christ is not yet perfect. We are members one of another only through Jesus Christ. We must relate to one another only through Jesus – who forgives me and you. The idealist can never really sit well or serve well in a congregation. He or she will always be assessing others and on that basis determining the relationship. But our relating has to be gracious – just as God made the first move to prodigal you and me, so we must, in Christ, make the first move of grace to one another.