Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

August 23, 2004

Back to Bonhoeffer


As my regular readers know, I’ve been meandering verbally around the issue of relationships among Christian believers. I blogged in several places on Kingdom communication, and here, here, and here on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. For a quick introduction to the life of Bonhoeffer himself, see this post. All of these jottings have in common a desire to visualize redeemed relationships. And when we do that, as I’ve tried to say in a variety of ways, we’re really visualizing in our oh-so-imperfect manner the eternal things of God. Didn’t Paul admonish us, after all, to set our minds on things that are above. Relationships of absolute purity, transparency, honesty, and authenticity will be the very bounty of heaven, and it is our duty–no, it is our privilege as a people in whom the Spirit of God truly dwells, to reach bravely for these things even here in the wild and wooly scrum of daily living.

Now, if you’ve been following me so far, or if you’ve read Bonhoeffer yourself, you know that Dietrich doesn’t play games. There is a passion and a seriousness about his writing that reminds me of the Apostle Paul himself. Like Paul, Bonhoeffer is deeply concerned for the state of his reader’s soul. Through these pages he is calling every reader to a kind of discipleship that is intensely and unremittingly authentic. And it is Bonhoeffer’s burden to remind us that this authentic discipleship is lived out in relationships or it is probably not “lived out” out at all. And one of the ways it is lived out is in the act of confession.

In summary, he makes four fundamental points. He says that in confession the believer:

  • breaks through to community.

  • breaks through to the Cross.

  • breaks through to new life.

  • breaks through to certainty.

  • What I hope to do in the next few posts is to reach a deeper understanding of the significance of confession for the Christian. Bonhoeffer calls it a great mercy. James, the brother of Jesus, says quite plainly that, since our sins will be forgiven, we should confess them to one another. (5:15-16) Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:

    He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship and service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they may have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. 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.

    I suppose that’s enough for one post. Next time: Confession as Breakthrough to Community.

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