Freedom in Restriction: The Beauty of Community Life

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17)

Psalm 133:1 reads: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

What does it look like to live together in unity as Christians in our world today?

This could be a community of neighbours organizing gatherings and potlucks together. It could be a church family supporting one another through regular meetings for prayer and worship. It could be a group of friends meeting for weekly Bible studies.

But I doubt that most people, when they read Psalm 133:1, think of intentionally moving into a community home, choosing to live life alongside 20+ other people.

And it’s perfectly easy to understand why many people would be averse to that. Especially in a North American context, private space is valuable. We like having our own houses and our own bedrooms, organizing our kitchens and living rooms and bathrooms just so. We like being able to arrange our schedules how we want, to enjoy peace and quiet whenever we want, to control who comes in through our front door and who stays out. We like the autonomy of an individual life.

But there is another kind of freedom that comes with choosing a life in community and all the restrictions and limitations that it brings. A different, truer kind of freedom. The freedom of Christ.

In such an individualistic nation as ours, the words “freedom” and “restriction” are viewed as opposites. Our consumer culture breeds in us a hunger that is never satisfied, teaches us to want more, more, more; to prioritize our own desires above all else. We crave the kind of freedom that allows us to chase after those desires without inhibition. And this is evident even in the first chapters of the Bible—the first sin of Man had to do with autonomy and a preference to live life on our own terms.

A life in community prevents us from fulfilling our own wishes. When we choose to live in community, we are choosing to be limited by the needs of others and the goals of the community as a whole. We can no longer organize our kitchens just so, control when guests come over, or live life purely on our own schedules. Life in community forces us to adjust our visions for our own lives, to sacrifice some of our own desires so that the needs of others can be filled. And this can be restricting.

But it is in these restrictions, and in the choice to be limited by them, that we are able to truly experience all that a life in Christ has to offer. Laws, rules, restrictions, and limitations do not prevent us from living fulfilling lives. They help us understand what a truly fulfilling life looks like.

In Romans, Paul talks about becoming slaves to righteousness. He calls us to choose to submit to the rules of God so that we can fully experience His freedom: “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness… now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:19-20).

And so it is with a life in community. We are free to be truly human and to experience the fullness of life in Christ when we choose submission, when we choose limitation, when we choose to die to ourselves and our own wishes. Community living allows us to fulfill the first and second greatest commandments: loving God and loving others. As Romans 13:8 tells us, Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law”.

This is what freedom truly is: to die to oneself, to sacrifice earthly desires, to choose the difficulties and hardships of doing life alongside other people who are just as broken as you are. This is what sets us free from the chains of the world and allows us to taste the richness of God’s intended life for us.

Life in a community home is not always easy, quiet, or fun. But it is meaningful. I see it in the messy beauty of mismatched plates stacked haphazardly in the cupboard, in the countless shoes of all different sizes and styles piled in the doorway. At first glance, this home is chaotic, loud, cluttered. But the mess speaks to something deeply Biblical: the coming together of people from various backgrounds, each with their own personalities, opinions, habits, and preferences; overcoming selfishness and the desire for autonomy. Choosing to be limited by one another. Choosing to be restricted by the demands of a community. And choosing to experience the freedom of God together.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Lauryn Francisco

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