I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s magisterial, moving Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works). It is, so I think, his best book. No need, however, to debate what is neither provable nor non-falsifiable.
What is worth discussing is his incredible set of statements about the expectations we bring to the church and that we expect of the church and how our expectations, when they encounter the realities, are dashed to the ground.
In my classes at Northern Seminary, we are reading a section to begin class from this great book. Those who can read Bonhoeffer’s life (and death) and not grieve what we lost have not come to terms with this great man’s life and thought.
Here are my favorite lines, lines that follow on from his important claim that Christian fellowship is “through” and “in” Jesus Christ:
This dismisses at the outset every unhappy desire for something more. Those who want more than what Christ has established between us do not want Christian community. They are looking for some extraordinary experiences of community… Such people are bringing confsused and tainted desires into the Christian community. Precisely at this point Christian community is most often threatened from the very outset by the greatest danger … the danger of confusing Christian community with some wishful image of pious community, the danger of blending the devout heart’s natural desire for community with the spiritual reality of Christian community.
Now hear this:
Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it is should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.
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.
Those who dreams of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves.