Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers a profound discussion on Christian fellowship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man martyred by the Nazis during the war. He is remembered for his heroic resistance and saintly long-suffering.
Life Together addresses the meaning of a Christian community. And it struck me as I read–the church is a gift. We are not entitled to fellowship. At times Christians have been scattered, pushed underground, or taken off to war camps. Bonhoeffer states, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer” (19). It is a gift.
Bonhoeffer also pointed out that Christian community is possible because “we belong to one another through and in Jesus Christ.” We no longer look to ourselves for salvation, deliverance, or justification. The barrier of ego is broken down. Christian community is feasible.
But sometimes we enter relationships with our demands, our own law, and we begin to judge others (27). How scary to think a believer can become “first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God and finally the despairing accuser of himself” (28).
In Christ it does not have to be this way. We can “enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients.” When we see sin we can give thanks that we have Christ. We can live in his forgiveness. “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (30).
Bonhoeffer goes on to give practical illustrations on how to live together. He offers some directions for common worship, and on the personal life both at home and at work. He addresses our relationship with our neighbor and wraps up the whole book with a discussion on the Lord’s Supper.
This book stirred up my affections for Jesus, and offered practical relational help when it comes to the church. I wholeheartedly recommend it.