April 9th marks 73 years since Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed in a Nazi concentration camp. However, through various biographies and writings, his legacy has lived on in church history. Prolific on many subjects relating to Jesus and the church, Bonhoeffer not only wrote about total submission to the will of God, he lived it.
As the church continues to reap from the bounty of his writings, like The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics, there is one particular book that gets lesser attention but is equally important to the church and church leaders.
Life Together is a slim volume, unimpressive in its length, yet deceptively packed full of truth about communal living in the church. In this book. Bonhoeffer not only explores what life together in the body looks like Scripturally, but practically. He shares how Christians can and should interact, the dangers of too much community and being too solitary. His writing on the subject is a must read for any Christian wanting to understand the beautiful tapestry God weaves together through His children, and how one matures in that community.
As we remember the life of Detrich Bonhoeffer and his contribution to the church, here are 10 things he taught us about community in Life Together.
Detrich Bonhoeffer Quotes
1. Accountability is an absolute necessity among brothers and sisters in the body.
“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”
2. The kingdom of God is to live in the midst of its enemies and His children must be ready for what that means for their lives.
“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.”
3. The church is best served when we all recognize what we are and aren’t afraid to admit our sinfulness and humble ourselves.
“If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. … How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?”
4. Community is not something attained but created through the mutual love and respect of its members.
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”
5. A community that doesn’t pray for one another won’t be transformed spiritually and will eventually collapse and die.
“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
6. God will constantly test us through interruption and the needs of others. We must be ready to discern and answer those interruptions.
“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”
7. We often minister to others more through listening than through many words spoken.
“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. Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”
8. We are called as the body of Jesus to mutually bear each others burdens faithfully, prayerfully, and practically as Jesus did for us.
“The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ.”
9. We must endeavor to be faithful in the small things of life, or else the great things in life will not be entrusted to our care.
“Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?”
10. Thankfulness is the foundation and the strength of any community rooted and grounded in Jesus.
“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”