For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This freedom that sets you free also frees you to love and serve others. Because Christ has set us free, we are freed from shallow, superficial, self-absorbed relationships and freed for deep, intentional, sacrificial relationships.
What does your community look like? Do you feel that you are using your God-given freedom to love and serve your community or are you keeping your freedom to yourself? Here are a few ways that will help to deepen your relationships and allow you to use the freedom God has given you to love and serve your community.
1. To freely love and serve others requires the act of vulnerability.
Typically, when we hear the word vulnerable, we think it has to do with me being honest about me to someone else. While that is part of vulnerability, vulnerability also has another face. In Galatians 6.1, Paul says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”
This is the kind of vulnerability when you notice that someone is struggling or stuck in sin and you offer a hand to pull them out so that Jesus can restore them. Notice the language he offers the helper: “..gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” When it comes to our neighbor, we must be sure to remain humble when we offer help; when it comes to ourselves, we must recognize our own responsibility for our actions. Speaking into someone else’s life must be balanced with examining our own life as well.
What Paul is telling us to do here with one another is vulnerable. It’s risky to get involved in someone else’s business because we don’t know how they’re going to respond. But to love is to be vulnerable (C.S. Lewis).
2. To freely love and serve others requires the act of commitment.
One way to carry out commitment with one another is to help carry burdens. Paul says, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 1.2).
Picture carrying something. Carrying something small or light is easy, but carrying something big and bulky can be challenging. When we’re in relationships with one another, sometimes helping to carry a burden is light and doesn’t cost you much. Other times, it can be like carrying something that is awkward, challenging, and uncomfortable, which can cost you much emotionally, mentally, and physically.
When carrying someone’s burdens, Paul says we are fulfilling the law of Christ.
This law Paul is talking about here is in John 13.34 when Jesus is talking to his disciples and he says: “A new command I give to you: love one another as I have loved you, you are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When we help to carry one another’s burdens, we are showing each other the love of Christ. Jesus says the world will know we are his followers by our love.
‘Bearing one another’s burdens’ needs to be balanced with ‘each of you carrying your own load.’ I can’t carry your burden for you and you can’t carry mine, but we can help carry one another.
Although it is a call to bear someone else’s burdens even at personal expense, there are some situations where you don’t have the skill set that someone really needs. Seek advice to help figure out the role that you should play when dealing with deep burdens. Also, be aware of toxic situations. This “bearing a burden” gets really complicated in toxic relationships like abuse or just a bad relationship. The reality is that some relationships need to end.
Another way to carry out commitment with one another is to continue doing good. Paul says, “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the appropriate time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6.9).
The freedom that we’re freed for frees us to do good. The mission to not grow weary means that doing good is tiring and exhausting. Although you’ll want to quit sometimes, we are urged to continue to use our freedom to do good. In doing so, Paul says we will reap a harvest at the appropriate time. What is the harvest? It’s the fruit that comes from being in relationship with one another.
Life-giving sacrificial relationships require commitment and vulnerability from each person in the relationship. The tricky part of this is the fact that you can’t force another person to be vulnerable or committed. When only one person is living this way, the relationship isn’t healthy and interdependent. The person who is living vulnerable and committed, by nature, is more likely to be wounded.
But when people disappoint us, wound us, hurt us by their actions and words, our world shouldn’t shatter because we should be living from a place of knowing that we are deeply loved.
3. To freely love and serve others requires you to first live loved.
You have to know you are loved before you step into community. We love each other because he first loved us – 1 John 4.19.
If you do not know you are loved and your identity comes from being the beloved sons and daughters of God, you’re going to place unrealistic expectations on the people within your community. When you really believe that you are loved by God, you can allow your friends the freedom to respond to your love in their own way.
The freedom we have to transform our relationships from shallow, superficial, self-absorbed ones into deep, intentional, sacrificial ones must be anchored in knowing God’s love for us. You are first loved. God’s love has set you free thru Christ. And with that freedom you are then free to love others.
Pray that God reveals to you the barriers that keep you from being vulnerable and committed to a community of believers. Would you pray for God to guide you to someone you can be vulnerable and committed with? Would you ask God to continue to restore brokenness in your life where friendships have failed and ask him to redeem those places where we fall short?