As I was finishing up my sociology degree, I started to compile a number of books that I wanted to read as ‘fun.’ However, most of the books that I compiled were books that I’ve read before. One of these dusty collections of awe-inspiring devotion to Christ were the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I have, time and time again, read The Cost of Discipleship, but this time around with new passion to understand him from the stance of his significance to society (including the society of the Church), I began to delve into his thought starting with his work on community: Life Together (1954). As I slowly gnawed on this five chapter work, I started to get challenged and encouraged as a Christian who really wants to do ‘Jesus stuff.’ Knowing that Bonhoeffer’s writings were more than ideals –but convictions– in the way that he lived his life, I started to realistically started to be challenged in what I think Christian community should look like. Definitely not like the world! Pragmaticism is the crisis that the western Church (at least) often has to shake off. To be inclined toward the poor, the weak, and the oppressed is something that the western Church (as a whole) doesn’t quite ‘get’ – however, God’s working on us 🙂 Through His mercy and through our willingness to pray and pursue Him.
This is the gem that I was hit with in his concluding chapter “Confession and Communion,”
The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give my thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to your to save the sinner. Be glad! (1954, p. 110-111)
I believe it’s the truth that Bonhoeffer writes. The truth is that when we brush off the insecure piety that so easily ensnares, let God purify, and embrace the vulnerability of a loving community, the dam breaks on the river of blessings and experiences that God wants to drench us in (if not drown us in – Gal. 2:20). (I realize finding that loving community is often a challenge, but they are out there! — Bonhoeffer landscapes loving community in the rest of the book)
So my journey has begun in excavating Bonhoeffer. His challenges to his generation are equally (I believe) applicable to us today.
Bonhoeffer, D. (1954). Life Together. New York: Harper & Row.