(Part 4 of 4 on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic Life Together)
The last things that Bonhoeffer wanted to communicate to the community of faith were ministry and confession/communion.
The Ministries for All
Before we move forward, it is important to clarify that all people are part of the ministry, there is not a professional group and then the people in the church pews. If one is a part of the community of faith, then they are able to take part in these ministries.
For the sake of harmony in the church, we all have a “ministry” of holding our tongues. We shouldn’t speak about much that occurs in our thoughts because most of the time it is not helpful. This prohibition includes speaking to other people under the guise of helping them. Going to another person and telling them to pray for So and So because they are struggling with This and That is not a wise idea. That really is just gossip cloaked in a false coat of spirituality. Unfortunately, I have been a part of this gossip.
Leave Others Alone
Just as we should pray for others when we are alone, we should also let them be under God’s control instead of ours. For God did not give us a brother or sister to control, but instead they were given so we could find above him God the Creator.
Sit with that just for a little bit. Different people will model God’s image differently, because God in “his very freedom from me [He] made this person in his image,” not my own preconceived notion.
Listening and Speaking
We in the community have a ministry of humility and listening as well. In a world that doesn’t stop talking, I believe we need these ministries more than ever. Just as we listen to God’s Word, “the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” These concepts then roll into helping others, allowing God to interrupt our lives so that we can be there for other people. We can also bear others troubles and cares by the freedom we have in Christ.
Community also requires that we proclaim and speak God’s Word to others. When a brother or sister falls into sin, there is an imperative in God’s Word for others to call them back. “Nothing is more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.” We are all sinners- great ones. Now God calls us as sinners to Himself, there isn’t a need to pretend that we are any different. The grace of Christ confronts us with the truth that we need to come to him as a sinner.
Confessing our sins leads us to being closer to others, being closer to the heart of deep rooted communion. “Sin wants to remain unknown…In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.” Openness in the form of confession to others removes our pride. Certainly we need to confess to God, but confessing to another allows the sinner to not be isolated anymore, freeing them to enjoy God’s grace. “In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.”
It is through confession and repentance (turning from sin) that the community of faith can now enjoy the reminder of what God has done in Jesus. Joy in Christ and in the community of the redeemed can be found in the sacrament of communion, where we remember what he did for us. “The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the sacrament.” For it is in this act that we come together and are shaped as a person of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
I hope you enjoyed this this look into Bonhoeffer’s work “Life Together” and hope you pick up a copy of it. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this series and if there is anyone in particular you would like me to look into.