Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Life Together bookBorn in 1906, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who opposed the rise of Hitler and his Nazi government when the majority of church leaders voted to support the new regime. At age 27 Bonhoeffer fled Germany and became the pastor of two German speaking churches in London, England. Two years later in 1935 he returned to Nazi controlled Germany to help established an underground, illegal seminary for pastors. Bonhoeffer also got caught up in the shifting political winds of the country and ongoing war, becoming a spy for the Allied forces against Hitler and the Nazi. In the spring of 1943, eight years after returning to Germany, Bonhoeffer was arrested and placed in prison where he was died at 39-years of age on April 9, 1945.

His book “Life Together” was originally published in 1938 and was rooted in the experience of living with his students and running the underground seminary. The book focuses on five key elements of the life together following Jesus: being in community with others, daily worship and devotions with others, personal spiritually, walking our calling with God, and confessing sins and living in forgiveness. Each one of these elements takes up an entire chapter wherein Bonhoeffer unpacks them in a matter that reflects someone who has lived the words on the page and not merely thought about them. In this way, the pages of “Life Together”, while not long, are incredible valuable to the greater Christian world, calling the followers of Jesus to live life together rather than as independent rafts adrift at sea.

The first element of life together that Bonhoeffer tackles is quite simply community; that is, walking out life together as a people of Jesus. All too often people, especially in the United States of America or any other country with a long heritage of Christianity, take for granted the “privilege of living among other Christians” (pg 17). Bonhoeffer rightly points out that Jesus himself lived among his enemies and called his followers to do the same. Christians do not belong to the “seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes” (pg 17) so that the message of Gospel of the Kingdom of God may shine forth and souls may be deviled from the bonds of evil.

From there, Bonhoeffer then moves on to describe what it means to start off the day within a community. Each day, Bonhoeffer suggests, should start with a common devotion shared by all members of the community during which the word of Scripture is read, the hymns of the Church are sung and the prayer of the fellowship prayed (pg 44). Each item in this list is of the upmost importance as they feed off each other and prepare the community for living life together amid their enemies.

The third element of life together that Bonhoeffer expounds upon is personal spiritually. As valuable as the community can be for the individual, it can also be damaging as the individual ceases to find time to be alone with God. To counteract this, Bonhoeffer encourages each member of the community to set aside a portion of their day to sit in silence with Jesus in meditate on the Scriptures, prayer and intercession (pg 81). Afterwards, the individual is to come back into the greater community, bringing with them the “blessing of his aloneness” while, at the same time, receiving “anew the blessing of the fellowship” (pg 89).

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Eric Metaxas: Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer and VeggieTales

Eric Metaxas is a writer most widely known as the author of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography called “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” However, he also wrote a biography of William Wilberforce as well as the world famous VeggieTales Hamlet parody “Omelet” – not to mention narrating the Ester video.

Knowing that I recently finished reading Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, a co-worker send a link to a talk Eric gave last year Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs about Bonhoeffer. It was such a great talk, I just had to share with it you all – besides, Eric is simply hilarious and, remember, he is a VeggieTale star, so watch the video. 🙂

Relationship Advice From Bonhoeffer

Dietrich BonhoefferI was struck by the other day by the following paragraphs from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “Life Together”

“Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ’s eyes. This is the meaning of the proposition that we can meet others only though the mediation of Christ. Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become, it takes the life of the other person into its own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person which he has received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men.

“Therefore, spiritual love proves itself in that everything is says and does commends Christ. It will not seek to move others by all too personal, direct influence, by impure interference it the life of another. It will not take pleasure in pious, human fervor and excitement. It will rather meet the other person with the clear World of God and be ready to leave him alone with this Word for a long time, willing to release him again in order that Christ may deal with him. It will respect the line that has been drawn between him and us by Christ, and it will find full fellowship with him in the Christ who alone binds us together. Thus this spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother more than a brother about Christ. It knows that the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of others is wholly dependent upon the truth in Christ.” (underline added)

To be willing to leave people with the Words of the Scriptures and let the Holy Spirit work on them….wow, what a powerful concept! All to often we, out of our love and concern for them, try to force people to change their lives. Only, as Bonhoeffer says, this is “human love” and not “spiritual love”, which, instead of trying to change people, allows the Spirit of God to work in the lives of people for however long He wants to.

Good words and are hard to walk out day to day for it requires self-control and a solid trusting foundation that Jesus knows what He is doing, even when we don’t have a clue. Yeah…good advice Bonhoeffer. good advice… now to walk it out…