Summary: Just what does it mean to belong? How do you know?
“A PLACE TO BELONG”
Message 18, Day 17 in the Series based on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life
Rev. Todd G. Leupold, BBC, AM, August 22, 2004
Please allow me to take the next few minutes to tell you about several people – people you may even know. First, I’d like to introduce you to Joe. Joe has been a Christian for as long as he can remember. He grew up in a wonderful Bible-preaching church, accepted Jesus as His personal Lord and Savior, committed His life to Him as a child and has seemingly never wandered. Joe is quite the scholar. His knowledge of the Bible and ability to quote an endless array of Scripture verses is astounding. Even in his secular job, he is a highly successful, respected and well known professional. Joe is happily married has 2.5 children and a dog named “Spike.” Everybody seems to look up at Joe and yet those who haven’t gotten to know him well on a personal level just may be intimidated by his knowledge of the Bible, godly example and deep relationship with Jesus. They keep their distance so as avoid comparisons. Some even whisper unfounded accusations to try to bring his image down to their own level. This sometimes leaves even Joe to wonder: “Do I really belong here?” “Is there something wrong with me?”
I’d also like to tell you about my friend Bo, who recently became a Christian. He grew up in a home that never really went to church or was concerned with spiritual things. For forty years Bo lived as the world taught him to live – do whatever feels good to you, say whatever you want or think you need to get off your chest, show the world that you are independent and don’t need anybody or anything. Bo never learned how one should really treat, interact, connect with others. He is a new creation in Christ, but he still has a lot of rough edges and is just now learning the destructiveness and immorality of his habits for the last 40 years. He wants to live for Jesus now and learn to be a godly man. But it is a struggle to figure this all out, get used to it. Bo loves coming to church, Sunday School, small groups and to volunteer in various ministries. But, recently, Bo has been having some second thoughts. Not about Jesus, but about church. Everybody else seems to already have their act together, speak the same Christianese dialect, and know just what to do or not do or say in every situation. They already have their own group of friends and relationships who they are comfortable with, but they don’t seem to know what to say or do around Bo. Bo can’t help but wonder: “Do I really belong here? Maybe I’m just in the way? Am I distracting, bothering or bringing the others down? I don’t think I really fit in here.” Do you know Bo?
Then there is Suzie. Suzie is a wonderful woman and has been a member here for quite some time, but her husband isn’t saved. Tragically, Suzie’s husband recently left her and the children to try to re-live an idealized life with a younger woman, no kids and no rules. Ever since people found out that her husband left her, Suzie has noticed that they have started to treat her differently. They have suddenly distanced themselves and even seem to look at her differently. Some of them just don’t know what to say and so they say nothing. Some feel uncomfortable around her, afraid to do or say the wrong thing, so they just avoid her so that they don’t have to be uncomfortable. For the first time, Suzie is beginning to wonder: “Do I belong here anymore? Is there still a place for me here?”
Betsy is a single mom. It doesn’t really matter why she is single – it could be that she was never married, is divorced, widowed or something else. There is so much that Betsy loves and appreciates about the church, but when she looks around she doesn’t notice too many other single parents or even just plain singles. It seems like everybody else is happily married. This isn’t really accurate, but it sure seems that way when you’re single. Lots of people seem to feel sorry for her, but Betsy doesn’t want them to just feel sorry for her, she wants them to be her friend. Betsy wonders: “Do I really belong here? Is there a place for me?”
Hank retired from his job some years ago and his wife recently died. Hank used to be very involved in various ministries of the church, but when he retired from his job he retired from that too. He figured that he had already “done his time.” Occasionally he would hear or read others say that a Christian never retires from serving God and His church. Hank has thought about doing more again, but every time he looks around there are more and more young faces taking the positions he last held. Society and the church are changing in ways he doesn’t always understand or like. At the same time, it seems like nearly all his friends have either retired to Heaven or moved away. Hank has been here at least 50 years, so he’s not going anywhere. But still he struggles and wonders: “Do I really belong here anymore? Is there still a place for an old man like me?”