Quotes from “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Part 2

On the meaning of Christian Community, from Chapter 1, Community:

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  No Christian community is more or less than this…

What does this mean?  It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ.  It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ.  It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.

First, the Christian is the man who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone.  He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces his guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.  The Christian no longer lives of himself, by his own claims and his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification.  He lives wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him, whether that Word declares him guilty or innocent.

The death and the life of the Christian is not determined by his own resources; rather he finds both only in the Word that comes to him from outside, in God’s Word to him.  The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an “alien righteousness,” a righteousness that comes from outside of us (extra nos).  They were saying that the Christian is dependent on the Word of God spoken to him.  He is pointed outward, to the Word that comes to him…

But God has put his Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men.  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, in the mouth of a man.  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 brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.  He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.  The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.

And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.  As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.  Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this “alien righteousness…”

Second, a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ.  Among men there is strife.  “He is our peace,” says Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14).  Without Christ there is discord between God and man and between man and man.  Christ became the Mediator and made peace with God and among men.  Without Christ we should not know God, we could not call upon Him, nor come to Him.  But, without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor could we come to him.  The way is blocked by our own ego.  Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother…

Third, when God’s Son took on flesh, he truly and bodily took on, out of pure grace, our being, our nature, ourselves.  This was the eternal counsel of the triune God.  Now we are in him.  Where he is, there we are too, in the incarnation, on the Cross, and in his resurrection.  We belong to him because we are in him.  That is why the Scriptures call us the Body of Christ.  But if, before we could know and wish it, we have been chosen and accepted with the whole Church in Jesus Christ, then we also belong to him in eternity with one another.  We who live here in fellowship with him will one day be with him in eternal fellowship.  He who looks upon his brother should know that he will be eternally united with him in Jesus Christ.  Christian community beams community through and in Jesus Christ…

…One is brother to another person only through Jesus Christ.  I am a brother to another person through what Jesus Christ did for me and to me; the other person has become a brother to me through what Jesus Christ did for him.  This fact that we are brethren only through Jesus Christ is of immeasurable significance.  Not only the other person who is earnest and devout, who comes to me seeking brotherhood, must I deal in fellowship.  My brother is rather that other person who has been redeemed by Christ, delivered from his sin, and called to faith and eternal life.  Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us…

That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more.  One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood…Just at this point of Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at the root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood.  In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.  Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.

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2 thoughts on “Quotes from “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Part 2

  1. I find particular comfort and conviction in this statement of Bonhoeffer.

    “This fact that we are brethren only through Jesus Christ is of immeasurable significance. Not only the other person who is earnest and devout, who comes to me seeking brotherhood, must I deal in fellowship. My brother is rather that other person who has been redeemed by Christ, delivered from his sin, and called to faith and eternal life. Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us…”

    Being a first generation Christian I have a tendency to look upon others who have a family legacy of Godly parents and grandparents and feel second class.( Not that others place this upon me) but rather that I have been brought out of a state of corruption that haunts and taunts me in ways that I think some have been spared. I love the things of God but feel i have no one who would truly understand my struggles. I have pressed forward through things that might alarm those who only know those things exist (Out there).
    Bonheoffer , it seems says “No, Christ is all and in all in brotherhood and fellowship”

    Perhaps then it is my own pride mixed with unbelief that is more a barrier to deeper fellowship than any other thing.
    Hmmm..

    Great post. I have the book i will read it. Thanks
    Joe.

  2. thank you so much derek for those quotes. I’ve been looking for it and finally found especially the one with ‘in-Christ’ motif: ‘Now we are in him. Where he is, there we are too, in the incarnation, on the Cross, and in his resurrection. We belong to him because we are in him. ‘ God bless you for that.
    Slawek
    PS If you don’t mind I would like to recommend to you pastor Jack Sequeira website and sermons.
    http://www.jacksequeira.org/jacklist.htm
    Please start with http://www.jacksequeira.org/roman11.htm
    and you will know why I was looking for this quotation by Bonhoeffer.
    Best wishes

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