As we step into 2016 together as a church family, here are some gems from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community.
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
“God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly.”
“Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive. . . . We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.”
“Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches us that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ? The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.”
“When pastors lose faith in a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to make accusations against it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the underlying problem is not their own idealized image, which should be shattered by God.”
“The Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”
“Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.”
“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. . . . Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”
“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”
“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
“There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God.”
“A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”
“Self-centered love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ.”
The Silent Monk
Several years ago, a man joined a monastery, where, in addition to the vows of celibacy and poverty, he was required to make a vow of silence. According to the rules of the monastery, the man was allowed to speak only two words a year, and only during his annual review in front of the evaluation board.
The new monk served his first year in absolute silence. At year’s end, when his performance was being evaluated, he finally was permitted to speak. The two words he uttered were, “Food cold.” The monk served his second year in absolute silence. At year’s end, his two words to the evaluation board were, “Bed hard.”
The man then served his third year in absolute silence. At the end of the year, when he showed up for his final review, his two words were, “I quit.” To which the monastery leader responded, “Your decision doesn’t surprise us; after all, you’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”
If only our complaining were limited to just two words per year, how much more peaceful and quiet our lives would be. “Do all things without complaining,” said Paul in Philippians 2:14. But is that really possible? Can a believer truly live a complaint-free life? Sounds unattainable, doesn’t it? Yet God’s commands are meant to challenge the ruts and routines we sometimes carve out for ourselves in this life. Continue reading
“Look at the birds of the air. . . . Are you not much more valuable than they?”
“How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!”
Western civilization is going off the rails. Not surprisingly, it’s the mainstream media helping us jump the tracks.
I totally get the public outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion, but I sure don’t get the sound of crickets when it comes to Planned Parenthood’s harvesting of fetal body parts for sale on the black market.
Maybe the networks are trying to kill the story by ignoring it. When they do finally say something, it’s riddled with tripe from the spinmeisters at Planned Parenthood. “The videos are fake,” they say. “They’re heavily edited!” Really? Is that the best you can do?
Actually it’s this grisly organization that’s faking it. They hacked their own website to manufacture a backlash. They claim the videos are distortions and misrepresentations. All the while a deaf and devious White House parrots their talking points. That’s how the game is played. Most people know it’s rigged, but the riggers feign ignorance for the camera. It’s performance art for the addle-brained.
“Oh, but Planned Parenthood does some good things, too.” Maybe. But that’s like saying O.J. Simpson was a good running back. So what? Nicole Brown Simpson is still dead, and her family has been devastated because of his butchery. The trail of blood from Planned Parenthood’s doorstep is much longer than O.J.’s. Continue reading
Only love can turn evil’s arrow into a boomerang and take out the source that threw it. That’s how it was at the cross, and that’s how it is with the people of the cross.
Could you say these things to the killer of your loved one:
“I forgive you.”
“I plead with you to repent and give your life to Jesus Christ who can change your life.”
“May God have mercy on you.”
So said family representatives of the nine victims of a fatal shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this week. Their response is nothing short of miraculous.
Surely everything inside them cries out for vengeance, but the One outside them says, “Leave that to me.” And so they are. After all, he’s the risen One, and he’s making all things new.
Columnist Peggy Noonan also calls their gracious response a miracle. She describes the court hearing as “people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way.”
Exactly right. And so, along with Ms. Noonan, I, as a northerner, bow to the south.
The believers in Charleston are displaying the deepest kind of faith there is. We call it “Amish Grace” here in our neck of the woods, in honor of that community’s response to the 2006 school shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
The precious folks in South Carolina who have lost so much can say these radical things because they believe they’ve already gained everything in Christ. Their hope transcends all tragedy. That’s why they’re content to let earthly justice take its course. Something bigger and better is coming.
Until then, they will grieve deeply and fight hard to love. Let’s join them. And may evil—in all its forms—thus be made to clobber itself until it is no more.