A Place to Belong: Strangers in a Strange Land
Idealistic young people in every generation seek for an alternative way of living. They sense the emptiness and alienation that permeates human existence. Deep in the soul lies the knowledge that human beings need a more meaningful way of relating to other human beings than what society offers. Seekers from the 50s through the 90s have all felt alien in a hostile world, so they have looked for an alternative — organic food, holistic medicine, diverse music, intentional communities, sexual orientations, new religions, etc. In today's society none of the traditions have provided the true alternative: an all-encompassing life... a place to belong.
No matter what generation people are from, by the time they reach their 30s, they wake up to the harsh reality that society does not offer the true alternative. Every alternative quest has turned out to be only a fad, and they are left without a real alternative to the same old rat race of making a living until they die. Every generation reveals that continuing to hope for the real alternative only leaves a person more and more alienated, a stranger in a strange land.
So why does each generation keep looking for the true alternative? Is there no place to belong — no place that both promises and delivers a real alternative life that works? Certainly the man Yahshua promised that life when He walked on the earth 2000 years ago. His followers clearly found that alternative. It is recorded that they shared a common life together, distributing whatever possessions they had to meet the needs of others, and the result was there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:32-35).
Why is it that for centuries since that time each generation has been let down by mere empty promises? Why has the church not provided the true alternative life of love and unity that Yahshua promised? It should have. It would have if it were true.[fn]1 John 2:4[/fn] Every generation has needed it desperately, but because the alternative has proven not to be real, but only mystical, the seekers always look elsewhere. And in the end, most take identity in their jobs, their marriage, their education, or their doctrine, while others look to drugs, sex, rock and roll, alternative religions, or intentional communities.
Since all has failed, where do we find love, anyway? And where do we find the power to actually share it? If only the Holy Spirit of the true God of love could be made real to us, then we would have true life, true community, and true love. It would surely satisfy our craving for a real alternative. If we could just find that place to belong, where we could experience that abundant life of unity described in the ancient manuscripts of Acts 2 and 4, what hope we would have!
The Answer to the Mystery
What made the alternative life of love work in the first-century communities was that the disciples were truly forgiven. The secret of this forgiveness was revealed by our Master Yahshua when he said, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."[fn]Matthew 6:14[/fn] In order to have the true alternative life, individuals have to love one another in the same way our Master loved us. In order to love in this way, those same people must be able to forgive. In order to forgive, they must be forgiven.
Forgiveness is essential to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.[fn]Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:2-4[/fn] Love and unity is what enables disciples to live together in peace, and this is what makes community. The first-century communities lived this way and were the foundation and pattern of the only way the church can be. Forgiveness is essential today just as it was then. It is not cheap.[fn]1 Corinthians 6:20[/fn] It results from the greatest ransom ever paid.
To find forgiveness, a person has to be buried with Messiah through baptism into death in order to be raised with Him to newness of life.[fn]Romans 6:3-4[/fn] In order to be buried, one has to die. There is no way to die without giving up your entire life, including your lifestyle.[fn]John 12:25; Acts 2:40-41; 1 Peter 1:18-19[/fn] It is in this death where the most amazing transfer of life occurs![fn]Colossians 1:13[/fn] In death, where He has gone as a sacrifice for our sins, and where we must go by surrendering our lives completely, our guilt and the entire weight of our sin is transferred to Him, and in exchange, His life is transferred to us. To have the guilt of our sin transferred to Him is what forgiveness is. It happens at the same time that He gives us His life, and pours His love out in our hearts,[fn]Romans 5:5[/fn] and we enter into the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,[fn]Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:2-4[/fn] the same unity He had with His Father.[fn]John 17:20-23[/fn]
Judge the Fruit
It is impossible for a person to be forgiven and not receive the life of Yahshua, which is a life of love and a life of unity with everyone else who has been forgiven. Whoever is forgiven is able to forgive.[fn]Luke 7:47[/fn] Without this ability, community is impossible. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit as Ephesians 4:2-4 talks about is not even rational when one looks at the so-called one Body of Christ or church today with all the strife and division that is in its nature. The thought of loving one another as our Master commanded His disciples in John 13:34 is "funny" to those who only see each other a few times a week at church. Needless to say, the idea that this "love" could be perfected in unity among all disciples, just like the unity our Master Yahshua had with his Father in John 17:20-23, is ridiculous to even mention in the church of today. John 13:34 and 17:20-23 refer to a way of life as described in Acts 4:32 and 26:7. This is community, the only way the church can be. According to Smith's Bible Dictionary, the word church came from the Latin word for circle, because "the congregations were gathered in circles." The church started out as a circle, but became a circus; it was originally a sheepfold, but it has become a zoo.[fn]Revelation 18:2[/fn]
People who have not given up their lives cannot possibly be forgiven, therefore they cannot possibly forgive others on a consistent, day-by-day basis.[fn]Luke 9:23; Hebrews 3:13[/fn] The result of this unforgiveness is dissension, wrath, anger, backbiting and the like, which amounts to division.[fn]Galatians 5:19-21[/fn] This is totally contrary to 1 Timothy 2:8, where Paul exhorts men in every locality to lift up holy hands without wrath and dissension, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the rest of the scriptures, to their own destruction.[fn]2 Peter 3:16[/fn] Because Christians cannot live together in unity, their teachers have invented the concept of the "mystical Body of myth. "You will know them by their fruit."[fn]Matthew 7:15-18[/fn]
Where is the Presence of God?
In 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, Paul said that, "when an unbeliever comes into the congregation while everyone is prophesying [not just the clergy], he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'" Hebrews 3:6 clearly states that, "we are His house, if we hold on to our confidence[fn]Which is #3954 in the Greek, meaning "outspokenness, boldness, making speech public."[/fn] and the hope of which we boast." If what is recorded in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 is not happening in a congregation, then where is God, and who then is the head of that house? The real Yahshua, the one who has all authority to forgive sins, is called Immanuel, which means "God with us." Where can we find a place to belong where God is with us?
We want everyone to take an honest look at their church, their salvation, and their whole foundation in the light of the truth of the Word of God we have presented here. We want to build with those who truly want God to be in their midst and not just in their minds as a myth or a doctrine.