Gleanings from Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer poured out his own life at the hands of the Nazis because he refused to allow the church to be a tool of oppression. His Christian classic, Life Together, outlines the essential principles of Christian fellowship, gleaned in the backdrop of the German underground.

Here are a few insights and quotes from the book have impacted me personally.

The community will continue to exist only as it learns to distinguish spiritual love from human.

The church is the church only when it exists for others.”

A man for others avails himself of the physical presence of other Christians as a source of incomparable joy and strength.

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.

Disillusionment, says Bonhoeffer, is the first step toward real spiritual community. He writes: Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God speedily shatters such dreams.

Real spiritual community, he says, is similar to God’s mysterious work in our individual lives: we rarely understand it even as it takes place. For this reason Bonhoeffer advises the Christian not to be constantly “feeling his spiritual pulse,” nor “the daily temperature of his community.” Instead, the Christian ought to begin each day in simple thankfulness to God for life together.

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” We may see, he says, “in the companionship of our fellow Christians a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. It is grace,” he says, “nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian [brothers and sisters].”

Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother. Looking at the Cross of Jesus, he knows the human heart. He knows how utterly lost it is in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin, and he also knows that it is accepted in grace and mercy. Only the brother under the Cross can hear a confession.

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