Mr. Standfast

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

August 15, 2004

Life Together: Chosen from Eternity, Accepted in Time, & United for Eternity

Okay, we’re moving on to the third of Bonhoeffer’s three points from chapter 1 of Life Together. I just want to mention here that the reason I’m going on so about this is because I need to learn it for myself, to take it in, digest it, and then live it. And for me the best way to learn something is to write about it. So here goes:

Bonhoeffer’s third point: In Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.

This is heady stuff, my friends. We are talking now about eternal things. About forever things. About things that were true before time began, and will be true after time as we now know it is nothing but a distant memory. And you and I, Christian, are standing right in the middle of these eternal realities. When I look at you, Believer, I see one whom
  • God has chosen from eternity,

  • God has deemed acceptable now through the blood of Christ,

  • and who will be united with God in perfect love for all eternity.

  • If, when I look at you, I “see” anything less than this, well then I need to put on my kingdom spectacles, because I’m not seeing the eternal in you.

    Bonhoeffer says, “He who looks upon his brother should know that he will be eternally united to him in Jesus Christ.”

    Now, that eternal relationship will be one of transcendent love. And it is God’s divine undertaking to teach us this love here and now through Jesus Christ. Paul says (Romans 15:7), “Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

    Accept one another. Receive one another. Welcome one another. You and I, in the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, are now capable of walking in just that kind of love. The Father has taught us, through Jesus Christ, how to do it. How to love one another. How to meet one another as Christ met us, with open arms. Bonhoeffer writes:

    “When God was merciful, when he revealed Jesus Christ to us as our Brother, when He won our hearts by His love, this was the beginning of our instruction in divine love. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren. When we received forgiveness instead of judgement, we, too, were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our brotherly love, the less were we living by God’s mercy and love. Thus, God Himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ.”

    Man, this is good stuff. When I meet my brother or sister in the Lord, I meet one whom God chose from the beginning of time for the purpose of eternal unity, and for whom God accomplished that salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ Himself. It is this and this alone which constitutes our family resemblance. It is this which makes us brothers and sister in the Lord.

    One of the ramifications of this is that I don’t have to-–indeed, I dare not-–require anything from my brother or sister that God Himself has not required. As my friend Tom Cornwell says, “You don’t have to get cleaned up.”

    Get it? The Christian mustn’t wait for his brother or sister to be good enough, to be pious enough, to go to church long enough, or go to the right church, or go to church at all! The grounds for love and acceptance between Christians is the blood of Jesus. Therefore, I am eager to meet (to accept, to be united with) the one for whom Christ shed his blood. I am anxious to know the one who was loved by my Father before the beginning of time. I can’t wait to meet you, Brother, Sister, if not in time, then in Eternity, in the company of all the heavenly hosts, and sing praise to that same Father in perfect harmony because he loved us both from eternity past unto eternity future.

    Wow! I hope this is as exciting for you as it is for me. There’s more, much more, to be said on this matter. And as the famous folkie-theologian Arlo Guthrie once said, “I’m not tired . . . or proud.” See you soon with more from Life Together.


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