Thursday, September 03, 2009

Unity, Sin, and Grace --Bonhoeffer speaks

Scot McKnight provided a meditation on sin and unity from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, which is found in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Fortress Press, 1996).

This is the quote that Scot picked out:

"Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the common life, is not the one who sins still a person with whom I too stand under the word of Christ? Will not another Christian's sin be an occasion for me ever anew to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches me that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ? The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting" (36-37).

I appreciate this word concerning the place of forgiveness in building Christian community. And, I want to add to this by pointing to the opening sentences of this paragraph, which sets the conversation in the search for the idyllic church.

Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:

God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly. They stand adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the community. They act as if they have to create the Christian community, as if their visionary ideal binds the people together. Whatever does not go their way, they call a failure. When their idealized image is shattered, they see the community breaking into pieces. So they first become accusers other Christians in the community, then accusers of God, and finally the desperate accusers of themselves. Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but those who thankfully receive. (p. 36)

Thus, we may come into community, resting in God's grace, letting the Spirit by our guide, knowing that in Jesus we receive God's forgiving love. That is the basis of our community.

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