Since the dawn of time and our existence, mankind has desired and needed to be a part of a group. From tightly packed cave dwellers, desert nomads, and village dwellers to tribes, clans, and nations, people want to be a part of something. The reasons are numerous and apparent. Merely from a survival standpoint the group ethos offers several advantages over the lone wolf milieu. Physically speaking, there is strength in numbers. The group offers protection, usually shelter, and an overall sense of security from danger. But the need to belong goes further and deeper than solely meeting survival demands.

Being part of a group provides a sense of belonging, a feeling of place and purpose, and often a gratifying sensation that one is needed, that the group is better off for the individual having been a part of it. These eccentricities of human psychology are readily evident in numerous and common examples with which we all have some level of familiarity. From club associations, fashion fads, and high school cliques, to guilds, unions, and like-minded, cause-driven organizations, the group is a place for an individual to leave off from feeling apart and to become “a part” of something much greater than themselves.

But while the group offers exponentially more positive elements to the individual’s experience, all of this intriguing psychology can play out in an opposite, harmful direction, and to equal degree. Enter the sad one who is “left out in the cold.” This phrase has become ubiquitous both in conversation and writing in everyday American culture. The one left out is said to be outcast, a pariah, a persona non grata. The one who has been left out has no means to enter into the “house” of the group; there is no hearthside experience for them, no hot, hardy meal with everyone else at the table. What’s worse is that the individual may not truly be alone in any real sense at all, but persistent, wounding, solitary feelings can easily become a convincing reality. What we say and do to the one’s who “feel” they’re standing on the outside in the cold can have powerful and long lasting effects on their character, morale, and trust of others.

Spiritually and emotionally, the Church is the shelter that the outcast is seeking. The safety of the Church is that place of refuge where their spirit can come in from the cold and feel safe, warm, and dry. It is then incumbent upon the Church, the body of Christ, to provide that welcoming atmosphere so imperative for the success of those who have battled with feelings of rejection, whether real or imagined. We must do everything in our power to include, never to exclude, to receive and never shun. The members of God’s Church must go to great lengths to make all feel welcome, desirable, and necessary to the Church’s survival. In providing this social undercurrent the lone bystander can “come inside” and receive the collective good of the tribe for all of their yearnings.

Let us then, the Church, go out of our way to bring people “in from the cold”. May we, with Holy Ghost filled spirits of hospitality and harmony, create the climate that is is essential to a soul’s need to belong and feel protected. May the Church be that “hiding place” King David spoke of where the one who feels left out in the cold can receive affirmation that they have a place, that their life has meaning, and that their being in the group really does make the lives of everyone else that much better.

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