1. As a child and a teenager, I wanted to be accepted. To belong to the circle of friends that lived on my street. I wanted them to like me and to let me be part of the things they did. To be asked to play with them. To be part of the baseball games. To be invited to the birthday parties. To be liked by them. It hurt when they made fun of me or acted like I did not exist. That I did not belong. And so I tried hard to be accepted, to belong. I tried to act and dress in the same ways. And I laughed at their jokes even when they were not funny.
2. But sometimes I found myself doing things that I should not be doing. Ringing a doorbell at an older couplesí home and running away. Going along in making fun of someone else. Even stealing something out of the variety store because the others were doing it as well. I knew these things were wrong but I found it so easy to do them. Because I wanted to belong.
3. Do any of you children know what I am talking about? Have you ever done something you should not have because you wanted to belong to the group or you did not want them to think you were a sissy or a goodie-goodie or a geek or whatever name is used today?
4. What about those of us a little older? Do we still have a desire to belong, to be accepted by others? At work? In the neighbourhood? In your extended family?
5. Does it not feel good to tell a joke and everyone laughs and think we are funny? To not be treated as an insider is important to us.
6. It is a basic need that we need to belong. To be loved as one of the group. To be loved by the world as its own. It hurts to made fun of or rejected - at any age. Even if you are retired. If you thought you were part of a group of friends and they do something without you, you feel left out and hurt.
7. Jesus says to us that if you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. We want to belong, we want to be loved. We want to be popular. To say what will be accepted.
8. It is said that President Lyndon Johnson used to carry with him the latest opinion polls so that he knew what stand to take on a particular day.
9. But as Christians we have a dilemma. For as Jesus says to us "You do not belong to the world." To each one of you who are a true believer, Jesus says to you that you do not belong to the world. In John 17:14, Jesus says that we are not of this world any more than He is of this world. This means that we look at things different than the world sees things.
10. The world we are referring to is the human system that is opposed to God. The world which thinks that we are ok and we do not need God. That we are able to look after ourselves and do not need God. That we are to look out for ourselves first. That success and popularity are important.
11. Jesus says that we do not belong to this world and their way of thinking and living. That we are not to feel at home in this world. That we do not get our security, our comfort and hope from this world. That we are, as Peter, says, 1 Pet 2:11 "aliens and strangers in the world." That we are not to even think as the world thinks. That we are not to conform to the patter of this world.
12. And yet this happens so easily. Even in the church. The church is to go out into the world but I believe that in the last few decades the world has gotten more into the church than the church has gotten into the world. And into the lives of each believer.
13. Even in discussing how God wants us to live, we so easily use human logic rather than the word of God. God says to turn the cheek when we are slapped, but even as believers, we say that may sound good but it doesnít work. We donít need to be doormats. Listen to yourselves as you discuss issues or how we are to act in various situations. I wish we carried take recorders around. We might be surprised how often our words reflect worldly wisdom rather than the word and will of God.
14. Remember, we do not belong to the world.