Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth? (Shemot / Exodus 33:16; ESV)
One of the strongest human desires is the desire to belong. It is not necessarily a desire that we are aware of, but we are made to connect with other people. While there are some people who thrive on being loners, most of us need to know that we are part of some sort of community. This community may be clearly defined such as a family or club. Or it might be more vague as when people share experiences such as talking about their favorite TV programs, coping with harsh weather, or becoming "friends" on Facebook. The awareness of this desire is not usually felt until one feels that they don't belong as in the case when everyone but you is really into the latest reality show. But the desire to belong often unconsciously drives us as evident by our fashion choices, the people we hang out with, and even our moral judgments. Without realizing it we rarely risk being different from those around us.
When God called the people of Israel starting with Abraham, his desire was to develop a nation different from the other nations of the world. Yet Israel was not all that comfortable with being different. Their desire to belong to the family of nations would prove to be a snare to them. Sadly, they didn't fully understand how much the rest of the world needed them to be different, for it was (and still is) this difference that would bring to people the sense of belonging they desire.
It is not that God simply gave the people a lot of rules that made them different. That's partly true, but according to Moses, it was God's presence that made all the difference. It is one thing for a people group to have their own customs and laws, for every culture has their own customs and laws. But no other nation had the Master of the Universe in their midst, who led them step-by-step, fought their battles, protected them from enemies and hostile environments, and provided for their daily needs.
It was the practical reality of God that made Israel stand out among the nations of their day. No wonder their customs and laws contributed to their distinctiveness. When God is working in your midst, you don't have to live life as if he isn't. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why following God's directives is so important. Neglecting his instructions denies he is really with us.
Because God's intimate involvement in our lives makes us different, we may feel disconnected from those around us. Even though as followers of Yeshua we belong to a vast, world-wide community, we might still struggle with a sense of not belonging, living among those who themselves may not know God. Unlike Israel of old, we do not live in an isolated national community. Instead we find ourselves scattered among the nations of the world, called to be a light to others. At the same time, our feelings of not belonging can be overwhelmingly painful.
But maybe we should look at this the other way around. Perhaps we are not the ones who don't belong. We belong to God's family through Yeshua the Messiah. It is those who don't yet know him who don't belong. They are the unconnected ones. They may not feel unconnected due to whatever sense of belonging they do have. But the desire to belong was not designed to be fulfilled through common tastes, shared experiences, and Facebook. The desire to belong was designed to be fulfilled by belonging to God and to his family.
If this is true, then those of us who are part of his family may need to look at the ways in which we are trying to satisfy our desire to belong. Our disconnectedness from others is actually due to the need of others to be connected to God. Could it be that our attempt to connect with them on their terms might get in the way of their connecting with God, thus experiencing the kind of belonging they most desperately need? Accepting being different and unconnected to others is the first step to discover what it means to truly belong.
E-mail this TorahBytes to someone? Click here
To have TorahBytes e-mailed to