No,this paper is not part of Harlequin romance. It contains theimpassioned craving of a champ of deep-seated Christian Discipleship,Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote from a Nazi prison to his lover, Mariavon Wedemeyer. Instead of staying a happy life with his belovedMaria, he was executed for disloyalty. Bonhoeffer had a bright futurein theology career ahead of him. At the age of seventeen, he startedhis learning at Tubingen, Germany. He graduated from the Universityof Berlin at the age of twenty-one. When he was at the age oftwenty-four, he was qualified by the Theological Department of theUniversity to teach there. The essay tries to answer some queriesabout the life of Christians in the community, particularly under thefire of a misdemeanor.
Duringthe reign of Adolf Hitler, many theologians and pastors led to Naziobstruction in church affairs. According to Bonhoeffer, there was noGerman-Christianity compromise with Hitler. Bonhoeffer signed theBarmen Declaration that declared independence from the co-optedchurch and Hitler’s state. He assisted in creating the independence“Confessing Church” in the country of Germany. The essay presentsa review of Bonhoeffer`s LifeTogetherwhere he explains his experience with Finkenwalde Seminary candidatesand the ones resided in Brother’s House from 1936 to 1938.
In1936, Bonhoeffer was in London when he was granted an opportunity tocarry out research on non-violent confrontation under Gandhi inIndia. However, Bonhoeffer decided to go back to German to lead anunderground seminary for coaching Confession Church pastors inFinkenwalde. By September 1938, Himmler declared the examination andeducation of confessing ministry candidate illicit. In October 1938,the Gestapo banned the seminary at Finkenwalde and by Decemberapprehended about 29 former students and pastors. Bonhoeffer spentabout two and a half years secretly travelling from one village inthe eastern German to another to practice “seminary on the run”monitoring his candidates where most of them were working illegallyin some few parishes. His teaching and simple life at Finkenwaldeseminary created the foundation of his books TheCost of Discipleship andLifeTogether.The overview of the five chapters of LifeTogetheris as below.
Life Together: The Christian Community
Inthis chapter, Bonhoeffer says that Christ controls the Christiancommunity. Whether it is an ongoing or a brief encounter community,Bonhoeffer agrees that the Christian community belongs to one anotherin Jesus Christ (Bonhoeffer, 1954). Such statement means that i)there is a relationship between different Christians because of JesusChrist ii) the highway to other people is only through Jesus Christ,and iii) all Christians have been chosen through the name of JesusChrist from eternity, acknowledged in time, and unified by eternity.The first point of being in the Christian community connects to one’sneeds of other individuals, regarding sharing the word of God andstrengthening the faith of one another. Such sharing brings the goodnews of salvation to all Christians. Christianity needs every personto speak the word of God in fellowship when such believers becomedisheartened and uncertain.
Accordingto Bonhoeffer, God’s word is external and must be heard from themouths of many Christians. In this case, Bonhoeffer derives his standfrom Luther’s Smalcald Article VIII, repeating that Christians willdeviate from the truth if they depend on their inner resources tohear God`s word (House,2015).Bonhoeffer emphasizes the difference between the Christian communityas a divine reality versus a human reality. The church is not theresult of visionary or desire, hope, nor can people claim themselvesaccountable for its prosperity or failure.
The Day Together: The Community at Worship
Accordingto Bonhoeffer, Christian life starts at dawn with worship thatincludes giving thanks, reading the scriptures, and praying. Eventhough he does not propose a serious liturgical meditation, he treatsworship with a strong interest in the pastoral side of the Christianlife by saying that universal praise should embrace “theworld from the Bible, the church hymns, and the prayer offellowship.”(House,2015).Bonhoeffer encourages people to use the Book of Psalms and read theprayers in the company of Jesus Christ, who prays almost all psalms.The Psalter is the Holy book of Christ in the real sense of the word.
Psalterteaches the Christian community to pray and lean upon God’spromises to his people. It also reminds its members that prayertranscends personal experience and attains Christ’s will for thewhole church. A brief reading of the Scriptures during worship doesnot surrogate reading the word as a living revelation of the word ofGod to all people at all times. The praising community should read achapter from the Old Testament and at least a half chapter from theNew Testament. The Scriptures from the Old Testament should be readas part of the redemption story that cannot be separated fromIsrael’s crossing the Red Sea, and their experience in thewilderness.
3.The Day Alone: Personal Worship
Afterteaching how communal worship should be carried out, Bonhoeffer movesto private worship. Worshipping in a calm, quiet, and people-freeplace is necessary for the Christian life. Silence and solitude havesignificant value in praising. Bonhoeffer says that after the shortperiod of silence, a Christian could meet individuals and events in arenewed manner. Silence and solitude, as a sign of respect andobedience to God’s word, has three distinct expressions:
Meditation:It should not be a private pursuit of strange experience, but as theprecious period of individual reflection that is guided by the query“What does God tell me in this verse.”
Prayer:It is usually conducted based on Scriptures as a way of talking toGod about matters that are personal for corporate prayer. In thiscase, Bonhoeffer encourages people to pray for the subjects ofwandering thoughts.
Intercession:Is the part of silence and solitude that enables people to bringother Christian brothers into God’s presence in concern of theirdaily needs.
Service: Types of Ministries
Indiscussing ministry and its issues, Bonhoeffer turns to the book ofLuke 9:46 to demonstrate how the struggle for advantage emerging inthe community is a rejection of justification by faith, in favor ofself-justification (Bonhoeffer, 1954). He cautions people thatbickering has caused the life-and-death struggle in the Christianlife. Due to this, he emphasizes that church members must remainsilent. In Finkenwalde Seminary, Bonhoeffer asked the believers toobserve one rule, never to speak about a fellow believer in his orher absence or, if such must happen, to inform him or herafterwards. He classifies ministries into three distinct categories:
Meekness:It is the category that disciplines the believers’ tongues.Bonhoeffer explains this group by citing the book of Romans 12:16whereby he stresses that meek people do not only put asideself-conceit, but also associate with the lowly.
ActiveHelpfulness:Is another ministry that is necessary for the Christian community.Bonhoeffer tells people that God created them to serve other people.He also says that God sends individuals to interrupt his people.
Bearing:It is a ministry that distinguishes Christian communities fromnon-Christian communities. Bonhoeffer says that Christ bore everyperson’s burden, and each, in turn, is to bear one another’sburden.
Confession and the Lord’s Supper
Thelast theme in this paper is that of confession. Although it is not asacrament in itself, Bonhoeffer says that it is paramount for theChristian community because it cleanses all sinners from hypocrisy.Sin isolates and terrifies people, as they want to remain unknown.The primary objective of confession is to open the way of coming backto the community. Through confession, a person gives up his evil,gives his or her heart to God, and finds forgiveness and fellowship(Nouwen, 1972).
Confessionis imperative because it speaks something about people: that they arenot afraid to be connected with Christ. It might not be necessary toconfess in front of the community. One has the right of confessing toa fellow Christian because the two people who are confessing to oneanother represent the entire community. In the confession process,there exists a highway to the cross, which overcomes haughtiness,arrogance, and pride.
LifeTogetheris a book that talks about how human beings worship in a Godly way intheir Christian life. Bonhoeffer, who discusses various events thatunfolded during Adolf Hitler’s reign, wrote it. The first chapterof the book talks about how people should live together in peace,love, and unity. Chapter two and three discuss how Christians shouldworship as a group and as an individual respectively. Ministries andconfession are the last two chapters discussed by Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer,D. (1954). . New York: Harper and Row.
House,P. R. (2015). Bonhoeffer`sseminary vision: A case for costly discipleship and life together.
Nouwen,H.J.M. (1972). The Wounded Healer. New York: Image Books