“…The event contained in the affirmation of God is more important than the belief in God…Belonging first, followed by behavior, followed last and least, by belief.” – Peter Rollins

We belong before we believe. The experience of belonging leads to behavior and belief if we’ve experienced the real thing.

We may arrive at the right answers or correct beliefs or proper theology (if such things exist) long after we have the initial experience with God and know we belong. What we believe does matter. But most significant and life changing is the experience with and belonging to the one we then believe in. This is what changes us.

Perhaps we ask the questions and create the space for this experience to occur without trying to provide all the correct answers. It’s not believing to belong; it’s belonging to believe. This speaks to the deepest desire of a soul (or at least mine)—to be seen, to be known, to be loved, to belong, unconditionally.

We grow up being told who we are supposed to be, even if it contradicts who we are and how we see the world. I find my true self not in external behavior, not in a set of abstract knowledge and beliefs and rules and regulations, but in the internal experience of belonging. 

When Jesus met people they changed. When those Jesus encountered knew they already belonged they then believed (with the option not to). Action followed the experience; obedience was the fruit of a life altering encounter.

I have never experienced lasting transformation when responding to pressure, expectation, legalism, religiosity, rules, regulation, obligation, duty, exclusivity, narrowness (who does?). I have only known the desire to act and believe when God has met me with unconditional love and belonging (when I experience God); when I have been asked—not told or coerced or manipulated—to follow. Even then it’s still a difficult choice. Belonging changes us, requires surrender, reveals a need and emptiness filled by no one and nothing else but the one who calls in unconditional love. When I love this one back it changes me (perhaps slowly) into the image of the one to whom I already belong.

The true experience of belonging changes us. How can it not?

Even if you don’t “believe” (and perhaps you never will), know you already belong. Jesus is not a “right answer.” Jesus is the belonging for which you have been longing—the one to whom you already belong.

“Belief isn’t always easy. / But this much I have learned— / if not enough else— / to live with my eyes open.” – Mary Oliver

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