Swans make proud parents- and are usually very protective of their cygnets. At the first hint of danger, they huddle close and dare anybody else on the river to try it on!
Still fluffy and gray/brown, they have a long wait before their adult plumage clothes their bigger bodies. They will learn to fly, to find food, and eventually in elegant independence will grace the waterways and skies. But only when they are ready. Until then, belonging to the family is their security and survival.
Belonging matters. It’s true for us as well- family, clan, friends, community: all are vital.
Paul, the writer of 2 Corinthians, knew about belonging in the community of faith. Corinth was a difficult city, and the church there was full of difficult and rebellious Christians! Paul’s relationship bears resemblance with the swan above: serene on the surface, but turmoil underneath! Arguments and wilful behaviour meant Paul had to address the problems in order to keep the Church intact. The words of this correspondence offer some of the finest moral and theological teaching on life within Christ’s Kingdom.
In the second chapter, Paul writes about the way to help a person who has “caused grief” to everyone- and restore them to a proper “belonging” again.
Now, if anyone has made somebody sad, he has not done it to me but to all of you - in part, at least. (I say this because I do not want to be too hard on him.) It is enough that this person has been punished in this way by most of you. Now, however, you should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely. And so I beg you to let him know that you really do love him. I wrote you that letter because I wanted to find out how well you had stood the test and whether you are always ready to obey my instructions. When you forgive people for what they have done, I forgive them too. For when I forgive - if, indeed, I need to forgive anything - I do it in Christ's presence because of you, in order to keep Satan from getting the upper hand over us; for we know what his plans are. - 2 Corinthians 2 v5-11 (Good News)
Does it surprise you that Christians are apparently less than perfect? It shouldn’t!
All relationships and communities take determination and hard work to keep them running smoothly. All Christians experience problems and troubles, we all have our quirks and bad points, and we all have the ability to hurt the ones we love. As Paul says, forgiveness matters alongside the willingness to seek out good character and behaviour (with the Lord’s help!).
It’s nice to belong. Is there someone we need to forgive- or be forgiven by? Are we willing to pay the cost of love to welcome them back; and the price of humility if we’re the one “outside”?
It’s nice to belong…