Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

Boy, I forgot what a marathon it is, teaching all day, every day for a week!  I want to blog more, but not when I spend every evening reading and getting ready for the next day–I’m already tired and it’s only Tuesday!  But, don’t get me wrong:  I’m really, really loving the class.  The conversation and the student engagement has been great, and, as always, I am learning so much from my colleague Mary–she has such a passion around issues of religion and media; and as a religious educator, she has such good pedagogical insights.

So, tonight, I am re-reading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in preparation for a discussion about Christian community [and Christian friendship] tomorrow–trying to think together about what those concepts might mean today.  It’s a powerful book, written in four weeks, reflecting on his time as director of the Finkenwalde seminary.  In lieu of deep theological analysis–a task that feels entirely beyond me at the moment–I want to just offer up some powerful and fecund quotes from the book:  you can do your own analysis!

Bonhoeffer was committed to the idea that “Christian life can never be lived in the abstract.”

 “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself becomes destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” 

 “Only Christ in his Word tells me what love is.  Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love for my brothers and sisters really looks like.  Therefore, spiritual love is bound to the word of Jesus Christ alone….Emotional love breeds hothouse flowers; spiritual love creates the fruits that grow healthily under God’s open sky….” 

“The Christian community is not a spiritual sanatorium.  Those who take refuge in community while fleeing from themselves are misusing it to indulge in empty talk and distraction, no matter how spiritual this idle talk and distraction may appear.  In reality they are not seeking community at all, but only a thrill that will allow them to forget their isolation for a short time.”  

“Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community.  But the reverse is also true.  Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.”

“Genuine speech comes of out silence, and genuine silence comes out of speech.”

“God did not make others as I would have made them.  God did not give them to me so that I could dominate and control them, but so that I might find the Creator by means of them….I can n ever know in advance how God’s image should appear in others.  That image always takes on a completely new and unique form whose origin is found solely in God’s free and sovereign act of creation.  To me that form may seem strange, even ungodly.  But God creates every person in the image of God’s Son, the Crucified, and this image, likewise, certainly looked strange and ungodly to me before I grasped it”

“The elimination of the weak is the death of the community.”

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