20 August 2003

Love for the body of Christ -- as it is

There is a wonderful passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic, Life Together, which I keep coming back to whenever I become impatient with the christian community. It addresses those plagued by the disillusionment I spoke of in point 1 immediately below.

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. . . .

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients (pp. 27-28).

I am quite certain that Bonhoeffer was addressing himself as much as others. After all, this book was written in 1938 at a time when the nazis ruled his country and when many, if not most, of his fellow German Christians were supporting Hitler and his destructive policies. Given this, it must have taken an extra measure of strength to bring himself to love this local manifestation of the body of Christ.

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