“The Church is the Church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”
“The community of the saints is not an ‘ideal’ community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
If you have never read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I highly recommend it as a realistic look at living in the Christian communion of saints.
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
This month I’ll be posting parts of a Lutheran Via de Cristo talk I gave about Environments. This is the first installment.
It’s has been said, and rightly so, that the Christian life is not a destination, but a journey. You might choose to think of it as a train trip. Our first talk spoke about the importance of having an ideal. It’s just crucial–think about it–you might be at the train station, but you can’t get on the right train if you don’t know where you’re headed. As Christians, we want to head toward the life of grace, a conscious and growing life in Christ. This means a lifelong process of reforming and transforming our lives as our will is conformed to His. Talks about piety, study and action gave us some idea of how to do this through personal spiritual discipline. Our last talk ,Leaders, presented a picture of the truly dynamic Christian as a leader. This talk goes a step further because Jesus called us to follow Him, not only for our own salvation, but for the salvation of the world. This is the true mission of the church. It’s not enough to get on the right train and sit quietly reading our Bible until the journey ends. It’s not enough to interact in a friendly and helpful manner with our fellow passengers. We must get off at every stop and invite others to come along with us.
There’s a very good book you might want to read sometime, called “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this book, Bonhoeffer says that Christianity means community and the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters is a gift of grace, pure grace. Then he goes on to tell us that the Christian’s calling is not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the midst of the world, even among enemies! In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples, saying:
“….you are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house ….Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
We can’t stay isolated in our churches and in groups of fellow Christians. We must go out — to our families, our workplaces, our communities –and radiate God’s love into our personal environments.
“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
We lay people need to pray for our Pastor and for each other. I have found, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that in praying for someone my feelings about them transform. Often God reveals something that shows me I have been misjudging or misunderstanding them. Prayer is an important ministry of the laity; we are never too old, too young, too ill, or too ignorant to pray. It is such a simple gift we can give others, and one we often neglect.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ These men without possessions or power, these strangers on Earth, these sinners, these followers of Jesus, have in their life with him renounced their own dignity, for they are merciful. As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer,