Life Together: A Christian Comes to Others through Jesus Christ
I’ve been sharing lately from some of the riches of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. What a wonderful little book this is. Bonhoeffer wrote this book for those followers of Jesus who continued to meet and worship God together in Nazi Germany. They were rebels against the state each time they met in their underground church. In staying true to Christ, they were quite literally putting their lives on the line, and Bonhoeffer was one of those who was ultimately martyred in a Nazi concentration camp, just one day (I think it was) before the camp’s liberation by the Allies. But this book, which was his manual for those underground Christians, continues to inspire and instruct today. It has inspired and instructed me, and I hope and pray it will do so for you as well.
You may recall that in my last post I summarized the first of three fundamental points from Bonhoeffer's first chapter. These three points are:
1) A Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ
2) A Christian comes to others through Jesus Christ
3) In Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.
Today I'd like to focus on the second point. A Christian comes to others through Jesus Christ. What does Bonhoeffer mean, and why is it important?
Now, hold onto your hats, folks, because this is an exciting truth. This is like the wind sweeping through your hair as you stand at the summit of some mountain, because this is a mountaintop truth, people! To quote Bonhoeffer: "Without Christ there is discord between God and man and between man and man."
Do you remember that discord? I do. I don't want to ever forget it. I use to rave at God because he seemed against me, and I raved at men because they were against me to. But the message of Christ is a message of reconciliation and peace, making it possible to look at another and see not an enemy or competitor, but another for whom Christ bled and died at Calvary. And it is only through that blood that peace is really possible. That we can come, to put it another way, with open hands, defenseless, to our brother, our sister, bringing the word of peace that is the Gospel itself. Bonhoeffer says: "Without Christ we would not know our brother, nor could we come to him. The way would be blocked by our own ego."
You can see that, when Bonhoeffer speaks of "coming to" a brother or sister, he is speaking of meeting them in a place of authenticity, of absolute reality. No masks, no games, no pretending. One sinner, terribly messed up, coming to another. Both of them having made a whole truck-load of mistakes, having hurt people who tried to love us, half the time confused and the other half lost, but trusting God's Word of peace for men and women just like us.
"Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother. Now Christians can live with one another in peace; they can love and serve one another; they can become one."
Christ made possible a whole new way of "coming to" one another. We will understand this better in the Kingdom of Heaven, because there it will be a living reality, encompassing every aspect of every relationship, forever. Until then, we need to intentionally cultivate that reality here in this fallen world, living the Kingdom day by day, relationship by relationship.
Which kind of leads into the third of Bonhoeffer's three points, which will be the subject of tomorrow's post. To close for now, I just want to say that each one of us has to grow into this way of being and of "coming to" each other, and it is not always easy. This isn't pie-in-the-sky religiosity, but God's empowering presence in relationships, which is just a fancy way of saying, "Peace, Brother!"