by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Harper & Row Publishers, 1954.
Find this book here.
It’s fascinating to read the writings of Bonhoeffer after learning more about the context in which he lived. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be a theological leader in a time when the world was at war, when evil was so present in the mass killings of an entire people.
In this book, Bonhoeffer focuses on the purpose and role of the Christian community. It quickly becomes clear that living in community is not an option, but life together in Christ is life in Christ. The foundation for all members is their salvation in Jesus, not ability or disability. In fact, the whole body is not complete without all members, weak and strong. All have a place and a purpose.
Although some of the examples and guidelines Bonhoeffer offers are more in line with a live-in community (like Hutterite or Mennonite colonies), the principles can still be applied to any group of people committing to live together in faith.
Bonhoeffer guides his readers through the events of a day, both together and in solitude. He leans heavily on the role of service and confession as well as Jesus’ sacrifice for us. In a community, love needs to rule. This is an intriguing read, perhaps best seen as a tool for self-examination of how we can posture ourselves to follow Christ more fully in Christian community.
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us…” (p.20)
“Only in Jesus Christ are we one, only though him are we bound together.” (p.24)
“Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ’s eyes.” (p.36)
“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ.” (p.38)
“‘Seek God, not happiness’- this is the fundamental rule of all meditation.” (p.84)
“We are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction.” (p.89)
“Genuine authority realizes that is can exist only in the service of Him who alone has authority.” (p.109)