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Finding Freedom in Community

And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. Colossians 3:14-15 CEB

According to the Apostle Paul, we are called to be in a perfect bond of unity with each other through the love that is in Christ. We are to be “in one body,”—and to be thankful for it. I recently read a devotion by Eugene Peterson focusing on this passage that gave me pause to ponder. As we depend on each other, we experience a deep sense of freedom. The closer we are to one another, the more freedom we have. That just does not seem logical at first glance.

He elaborates by explaining that we all have strengths and talents that were given to us, yet these gifts can often cause us to believe that we are self-sufficient. We don’t need others. We are capable of living quite well on our own, thank you very much. This sense of self-sufficiency, though, can act as a prison. The pressure of having to do it all can wear us down and overwhelm us.

Wouldn’t it be much freer to be able to reach out to others, to share our strengths and talents with each other along this journey of life? With this sense of mutuality and of bearing each other’s burdens, “we are no longer imprisoned in our strengths; we are no longer paralyzed by our needs.” Through sharing life together, we help, and we are helped.

Caring for others, bearing one another’s burdens is reaching out, helping, supporting, even carrying someone who is going through a crisis in their life; the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job. Or being a comfort for one who is just wrestling with the everyday struggles of living in this world, striving to be a good parent, balancing work, family, and growing older. We were created by God to live in community—helping each other, supporting each other, going through life together.

Mark 2:1-12 tells a story about four men who carry a friend who is paralyzed to Jesus on a stretcher so that he can be healed. They were so determined to get him to Jesus that they tore a hole in the roof of the place where Jesus was present and lowered their friend through the opening. Yet I have always wondered what it must have felt like to be the one being lowered into the opening. He must have felt a bit self-conscious and maybe embarrassed. To be openly and publicly presented as someone who is needy and desperate, as opposed to the stretch-bearers. They were the virtuous ones in this story.

Yet there will be times in our lives when we are the stretcher-bearers, helping someone. While at other times we will be the one on the stretcher, someone needing help. This is what living in community, “in one body,” in mutuality in the love of Christ is all about. We need each other. And what great freedom that is.


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