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Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community Paperback – May 26, 2009
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"When I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, some words Gorky used of Tolstoy come into my mind--'Look what a wonderful man is living on the earth.'" -- Malcolm Muggeridge, author of Jesus
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Chapter two articulates how a day with others should look and begins by arguing for a common worship time in the mornings (41-44). The church should pray the Psalms, read short and long Scripture passages, and sing worship songs as a community of believers (45-60). These practices should include praying together, fellowship at the Lord's Table, a healthy work ethic, and morning and evening devotions with an emphasis on intersession prayer for others (62-75).
Chapter three covers a day alone, focusing on the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Bonhoeffer covers solitude and silence, meditation, prayers, intersession, and the test of meditation (76-83). Through each area, he does a superb job connecting the importance of spiritual disciplines with their impact on Christian fellowship. Chapter four continues by focusing on ministry. The ministry of holding the tongue, meekness, listening, helpfulness, bearing, proclaiming, and ministry of authority were covered. The chapter presented how to cultivate humility and faithfully serve the body of Christ.
The final chapter focused on confession of sin and identified the cross as the only means to break through to real community (110-117). The recipients of confession can be any Christian brother or sister (118). No one person or mask of piety should be arisen when confessing to one another. This confession should also be present prior to the Lord's Supper (121-122).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" is a revolutionary work that has impacted me tremendously. Do you ever get a quote that just strikes your heart? A single sentence that makes you want to dwell on it for a long period of time? This book offers all of that in abundance. And not only a single sentence here or there, but entire paragraphs that just expound on the Scriptures and pierce the heart. It truly is "grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren."
It's about understanding the glue that ties the community of the church together. The gospel is the center, the core focus, of how communal life with the church is even possible. There are great warnings about straying from this, but also great encouragements as to how this can last with His power. It is a great tool for avoiding division.
His Lutheran bent is very blatant, which is probably my only drawback. A number of "should's" and "oughts" on secondary matters that do not need to be there. But if taken as suggestions I think it would help many (but not all). His passivism also shines through a little bit, but knowing where he ended up theologically at the time of his attempting to kill Hitler should give an indicator that he would probably edit that out in a future copy, had he not been executed by the Nazi regime. Maybe.
Life together under the Word of God, as our great authority, and prayer is what guides us as a community to the very heart of God.
His take on morning devotions was also very convicting. There are numerous examples, throughout the Scriptures, of giving our morning thoughts and prayers to God by godly men. And while it is not a prescription for doing this as law, it does describe the great benefits of being with God before the days begins. "At the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him whom our whole life belongs. `Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' (Eph. 5:14)"
Overall, if anyone were looking for a book that encapsulates what Christian community should look like, this is one of the first books I would offer. This is probably one of those books that gets better with each time it is read.
Life Together is the quintessential work on Christian community. Whether you have been part of a church, small group, youth group, or Christian residence hall, you have probably heard of this book. Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an icon of modern Christianity. Bonhoeffer relates what he learned living in a secret underground seminary in Nazi Germany.
"Christian community is a community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this." Community can never be our goal. Our love for Christ should be the only goal and from that community will effortlessly emerge. And from our community, our differences will recede and the purity of Christ's love will become more and more vital to us.
Bonhoeffer then adds that a community that excludes "the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people...may actually mean the exclusion of Christ."
This is a great, concise book on the instrument of God we know as community. I recommend this book to anyone who works in a Christian environment. Bonhoeffer challenges our ideas of community and solitude, their benefits and inherent dangers.
"The basis upon which Christians can speak to one another is that each knows the other as a sinner, who, with all this human dignity, is lonely and lost if he is not given help."