In an episode of the old Andy Griffith Television show, the Women’s Historical Society discovers that a living descendant of a Revolutionary War hero is living right there in Mayberry. The news generates excitement and curiosity throughout the town as people make plans for recognizing the hero’s relative. Barney Fife, of course, twists his own family tree to the point that he puts himself in line for the honor. The rest of the townspeople feel special just because someone among them is related to a hero.
However, everyone is shocked when the person with the special ancestry is finally revealed. A careful analysis of the genealogical records determines that the hero’s descendant is none other than Otis Campbell, the town drunk. Despite suggestions to find a “substitute Otis” for the presentation, the real Otis shows up for the ceremony true to form. When the ladies finally give him the plaque, Otis holds it in his hands for a moment, and then decides to instead give the plaque to the town. He tells them, “Just because you’re the descendant of a hero doesn’t make you one, too. So I would like to present this plaque to the town of Mayberry, to which I am just proud to belong.”
Friends, whether or not we are a hero, merely a descendant of a hero, or have no connection to any hero, Otis is right: it is a great privilege simply to belong. One of the great promises that God gives us is that when we place our trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we then belong to His family. In John 1:12,13 the Lord tells us, “Yet to all who received Him, those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” As God’s children we now belong to a family where God is our father and other believers in Jesus Christ are our brothers and sisters. No, this does not mean that we will all want to attend the same church. Nor does it mean we will always share the same opinion on various issues. Neither our biological nor our spiritual siblings will likely agree with us on every topic. Yet it is important to realize that as Christians we belong to a family where our common experience of God’s grace through Jesus Christ will allow us to encourage others and be encouraged by others.
One of the primary reasons many people in our society today suffer from discouragement and depression is because of loneliness. Even though someone may constantly be surrounded by other people, even though that person may have hundreds of social media “friends,” that individual often feels as if he or she doesn’t really belong. We can be very grateful that when the Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him and be His disciples, He doesn’t ask that we walk this path alone. The support and encouragement we give to and receive from other Christians as we go through this life is indeed priceless.
Yours, grateful that, by the grace of God I do really belong
Pastor Dan Erickson