Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bonhoeffer, spot on

Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 5)I was transcribing some notes from Bonhoeffer's, “Life Together” ( read it on retreat and soon the whole text was bristling with sticky bookmarks!) and among the passages was this incredibly insightful words on the power (and grace) of disillusionment (pg 35-36). Even though he was specifically speaking about people in communal life settings (such as the seminary he was creating on a monastic model), Bonhoeffer speaks (and how clearly!) to one of the central pastoral issues of our own day (see Monday's post and comments):
On innumerable occasions a whole Christian community has been shattered because it has lived on the basis of a wishful image. Certainly serious Christians...bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life should be...but God's grace quickly frustrates all such dreams. A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community. By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks.... The sooner this moment of disillusionment comes for the individual and the community, the better for both. ... Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even thought their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.
“God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly. They stand adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the community..... So they first become accusers of other Christians in the community, then accusers of God, and finally the desperate accusers of themselves. Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ....will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches me that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ?

Isn't that just what people need when they think that "the Church" is going "backwards" or is "too liberal" or is "anti-gay" or "anti-woman" or just not what one (or even Jesus) might desire?

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