“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

We see a great deal of service to one another in the realm of God’s people. Missions trips abound. Benevolent funds overflow. Community service projects are well staffed by Christians in fluorescent orange vests who commit numerous Saturday morning hours on behalf of the community. People make a vocation out of their desire to serve.

And how does Paul call on Christ’s church to serve one another?

Through love.

As you have probably guessed, the love spoken of here is agape. Agape is far more than brotherly love. It is also greater than parental protective love. Certainly agape goes far beyond the erotic love which drives our entertainment world. Agape is the highest caliber of love. It is a sacrificial love which perseveres even when it is not reciprocated. It is the kind of love God has for his children. And it is the sort of love we are to display to others.

Through agape serve one another.

The servant in God’s house will never be lacking opportunities to serve. Service to others is common, but the principle of agape is often missing even among church servants.

It is not always easy to combine service and love. Both are demanding and, when combined, the task can become exasperating. Granted, there are people who we manage to serve who prove to be very unlovable. Some seem to go out of their way to be unlovable. But the greatest impediment to serve in love is not the person we are serving. Rather, the greatest impediment is our very own heart.

We can serve mechanically, concluding that this is simply what I do.

We can serve dutifully, concluding this is what I am expected to do.

Like a doorman on Park Avenue, we can opt to serve monetarily (pastors are particularly prone to this), concluding this is what I am paid to do.

We also have the option of serving artificially, concluding that I look good by what I do. In a star struck Christian culture, many sincere church leaders end up here.

And we always have the opportunity to serve selfishly, concluding that I feel good when I do so I will do.

We need to be aware of what motivates us to serve in God’s household and measure ourselves against Galatians 5:13.

For example, we know that we are not serving through love when we let others know what we did so as to ingratiate ourselves. Matthew 6: 3-4 reads, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…”

We all appreciate rewards but often do not want to wait to be rewarded later and neither do we necessarily want God’s reward. We often crave reward through men and now. There’s nothing like the soothing stroke of self-esteem pouring down our conscience. And yet the NT speaks so clearly against this self-love. 1 Corinthians 13:1 reads, “Love does not seek itself.” Agape love focuses on others.

On occasion my dear wife passes along readings from William Jay’s devotional Morning and Evening and on one past winter morning, Jay happened to touch on this very verse. He lists four reasons why love for others is important in our service to God and I repeat some of his ideas below.


Of course, it will certainly be valuable to that person and the institution you are serving. But it will be valueless in God’s eyes. 1 Corinthians 13:3 explains that “if I give away all I have (to someone in need) … but have not love, I gain nothing.” There is an element of personal gain/benefit in serving. That is not the question here. Rather, the question is “What is your motivation and what compels you to serve others? Is it some sort of personal gain or mere obedience? Do you serve mechanically or is it love for others that constrains you? Are you sacrificially giving of yourself through love? Do you serve for the loving good of the other because the other needs that good from you? As you well know, God looks at the heart, not just the action so that the least service to someone else out of love is greater than a great sacrifice without love.


Everything is easier where there is love: dinner is easier to swallow when you love the dish; listening is easy when you love the topic; driving long-distance is doable when you love the destination; and serving others is easier when you love who you are serving. Christian servants know that love for others begins with love for God, which overflows to the ones we serve. Essentially, Galatians 5:13 is a restatement of the first and second greatest commandments: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39).

Recall the Genesis 29 account of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob served his father-in-law 14 years to marry Rachel. His love made it possible for him to endure because actions follow the heart. When Jacob met Rachel (v. 11) he kissed her and “lifted up his voice and wept aloud” because he knew that this was the woman for him and then he served and waited 14 years. The initial seven years (v. 20) seemed like a matter of days “because of the love he had for her.”


With love, your service to others will excel. It will improve, stand out and surpass. Just as pride in your work will cause you to work better, so with love you will discover that your service to others becomes kinder, compassionate, more willing, more gracious, more forgiving and you will not be resentful or grumpy at the person you love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 describes love as “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”

We all know how an ungracious attitude tends to spoil everything. We have all had a fine meal spoiled by a waitress or waiter who just had it and did not want to serve another minute. My point is that it is nearly impossible to serve kindly, patiently, and humbly without love. Love has the uncanny ability to enhance and polish our service to others. Not only that, but love keeps those in need from being insulted by our service to them. Love doesn’t just toss a coin at them. Love serves them gently. Love upgrades our service to those who have been placed under our shepherding care.


Love will excite you about serving others. You will think, “This is not enough. What more can I do?” And that’s because love is generous, not stingy or conditional. William Jay notes that “Love cannot have much and not want to help.” To the one who loves, the suffering of others shocks them into action because their eyes affect their heart. The loving servant begins to give beyond what he thought was even possible. And as a result of love, he will not grow weary in doing good… even when opposed. Take away love and the pastor will soon peter out.

Make it a point to owe no person anything but love to one another.

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Paulo Freire

Lead Pastor at Hope Church
Pastor Paulo Freire has been shepherding the congregation at Hope Church in New Jersey for twenty-five years. He is a native of São Paulo, Brazil. As a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, Pastor Paulo brings a love for the study and application of the Word of God into the pulpit with him. He lives in Wantage with his wife Lisa. They have three sons, Tyler (married to Jeanna & pastoring in Ohio), Micah (worship director in Los Angeles), and Elias, who is still at home, along with one granddaughter named Maggie and a grandson due any day. When he is not behind the pulpit at Hope, Pastor Paulo can be found preaching and teaching in other venues, training pastors through the EFCA Gateway program or working with the district's credentialing process and the Board of Ministerial Standing.

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  1. JJ Meyer on February 17, 2024 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you for that important reminder Paulo. I love you brother!

  2. Mike Jarrell on February 16, 2024 at 2:36 pm

    I love you my brother.
    Thats at least 1

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