Friday, May 25, 2012

Reading Bonhoeffer: Life Together, Part 3/4

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
New York, New York: HarperOne (1993). 122 pp.
Also see part 1 and part 2.

Chapter Three: The Day Alone

This was a sobering chapter. “The Christian community is not a spiritual sanitorium.” Here we are exhorted to beware of community if we cannot be alone, and to beware of aloneness if we cannot be in community. “We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship.” (77) This paradox proposed by Bonhoeffer deserves additional thought.

The guidelines for our time spent alone as proposed are helpful. Meditation, prayer, and intercession are worthy pursuits that embrace both our personal relationship with the redeemer and our corporate responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the church. I appreciated the emphasis placed on the value of this exercise, and its use: “…the strength of aloneness and the strength of the fellowship is solely the strength of the Word of God, which is addressed to the individual in the fellowship.” (89)

Chapter Four: Ministry

We are a sinful people, and even when pursuing seemingly altruistic purposes we tend to be driven by our own agendas and desires. The conversation on page 91 concerning how we naturally tend towards jockeying for a position of superiority over our brother brought to mind what Bonhoeffer had to say about our nature on page 31. “The essence of human community of spirit is darkness … It is the deep night that hovers over the sources of all human action, even over all noble and devout impulses.”

Another trend in some of our larger churches is to engage in pew-sitting, not bothering to use our gifts for the good of the body. After all, we have paid staff to do that type of thing. Bonhoeffer rejects this spiritual complacency. “In a Christian community everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain.” (94) We are all part of one body, and we all need each other to function properly as the body of Christ. When 90% of the body is sitting idle allowing the other 10% to do the work, we have severe dysfunction. This reminds me of something I heard a professor at DTS say: “If 10 people in your large church didn’t show up one Sunday, would your pastoral team start desperately searching for them? Or would it go unnoticed? How about if you woke up one morning and 5% of your vital organs were gone? That’s the analogy.” 

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