Everyone yearns to belong, to be a part of a family or fellowship, and to have friends.
For those of us who are Christians, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:19 makes our status clear: "You are no longer strangers or sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
That means if we all claim the same God as our heavenly father, then we are all members of God's household of faith.
When you join a church, then, you enter the ranks of all those who have ever believed and those who now believe in Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. You are a citizen of the Kingdom of God, with all the blessings attached thereto. You never have to worry about being forgotten and alone to fend for yourself -- at least, that is how God expects the church to provide ministry.
In the course of my ministry over the past 50 years, my wife and I have never lived near blood relatives. We have had members of our congregations serve as our brothers and sisters and mother and father. Our children have had members fill the role of aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Because a local congregation is like one big family, it is only natural that we will have disagreements and arguments. Hopefully, we can agree to disagree in a sweet spirit and without alienation.
We especially need to avoid being devious and spreading dissension. Unity among church members does not mean uniformity, but learning to live together in spite of differences, which seldom involve fundamentals of the faith but applications of that faith and administrative issues.
God wants to make our congregations more friendly and inclusive and not cliquish and exclusive. God wants us to reach out and invite the lonely, the lost, the stranger and the alien to become a part of our household of faith, God's caring, loving family.
Dr. Gene Norris is a Presbyterian minister.