“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together
I’ve been working my way, again, slowly through Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. I think this many months into the pandemic, when our normal rhythms have been disturbed, when our communities have changed in ways that we know and see and in ways that we don’t know and can’t see, this book is speaking to my heart in a new way. I’m working slowly because I stumble across sentences like the one above and it causes me to stop and reflect for sometimes days at a time.
The copy of Life Together that I am reading actually belonged to Pastor Troy. He has underlined so many sentences and paragraphs throughout the book. And the things that stood out to him aren’t necessarily the things that stand out to me. But I do pause and wonder at the underlined words because I’m curious as to how they spoke in his context when he read it.
As humans, we fall into the “us vs. them” trap so easily. It’s so easy to define myself or my group by defining how we are not like the other. Does this sound familiar? Because it seems to be the primary way of communicating, sharing the news, being human in the world today. It seems sometimes that everything coming at us is meant to divide instead of unite.
As God’s people, we are called to recognize both our gifts and our shortcomings in ourselves. As God’s people, we are called to recognize the gifts of our neighbors. As Luther writes in his explanation of the 8th Commandment, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” I will, and I ask God to help me! This is vital but difficult work.
I’ve enjoyed the moments during our fellowship when I see people sitting together that used to attend the other worship service. I like to hear the honest questions about why things are done a certain way in worship. It’s in honest dialogue with one another that our community can become more genuine and deep. Pastor Tom’s Sunday morning class has also been a way for this community to be more genuine and deep as the participants share their concerns and pray for one another.
How else can we nurture genuine and deep relationships between the members of Bethesda? How can you as an individual show the curiosity and care for someone you don’t know in this community in an effort to be genuine and deep? How can we keep the central thing, the most important thing, between us? Can we work together to strengthen this community so that “Jesus Christ and his work becomes the one and only thing that is vital between us?”