I’m nibbling my way through Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another short but pungent book. In the early 1930s Bonhoeffer helped create the Confessing Church which opposed the Nazi regime. As Hitler’s darkness began to grow, Bonhoeffer led a seminary and wrote Life Together based on that experience.
In it, he cautioned against a person “looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere” and to watch out for the danger of “confusing Christian fellowship with some wishful idea of religious fellowship.” The natural desire of a devout person to join a community is not the same thing as being part of the body of Christ.
Christian fellowship is not an ideal we aspire to; it’s something we participate in simply by being followers of Jesus. It’s a spiritual reality, not a psychological or emotional experience. It’s not a country club, or Scouts, or a sports team, or an educational association. It’s not a nationality or a culture, it’s not an affinity group. As Bonhoeffer says, “For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. He is our peace. Through Him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.”
My brother [or sister] is that other person who has been redeemed by Christ, delivered from his sin, and called to faith and eternal life. Not what a person is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our fellowship is what the other person is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.
God has put his Word into the mouth of people in order that it may be communicated to other people. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother or sister. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his fellow Christian as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.
You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as He cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message
This Week’s Special
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.
You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all.
Ephesians 4:4-5 The Message