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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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Top Customer Reviews
This book talks about very simple things: singing together, living together, reading together. It touches little on how to overcome politics or proper forms of leadership. What he wants most is to make sure that, of all things, we learn how to be true brothers and sisters, which can ONLY be done through Christ. Without him and His will, we can do nothing. The Christocentric nature of his writing is alomost startling, yet, like Karl Barth, is essential to understanding Bonhoeffer.
I was most affected by the chapter about reading the Bible. He refers to booklets (writeen by the Moravians in his time) that focus only on a few verses. He challenges us to read whole chapters, whole books, of the entire Bible. This is so very true today. If we even take the time to read the Bible, we don't take part in the great narrative of God's grace, in Israel's crossing of the Red Sea, of thier crying out to God for help. When God rebukes them, he also rebukes us.
Perhaps some aspects of the book are somewhat anachronistic. The part about singing is a bit opinionated. I understand his desire for true unison singing - that it captures the symbol of all God's people joining as one in Christ. But singing also can reflect diversity, the diversity of the people in our congregation joined by the words but diverse in HOW it is sung. That is how I see it. And I find his rebuke of "unmusical" singers a little elitist. What would he think of current contemporary music with instruments, a leading band, and multiple melodies? On the one hand he DOES give us necessary pause for thought - we cannot succumb to the desire to be "current" while compromising the gospel; on the other hand I think he is a bit stuffy in his comments.
What makes this a classic is that it is not just a list of exhortations, but a THEOLOGICAL work, not a take on business models for the church, or sociological ana;yses. It is a book steeped in Scripture and that is very good.
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan; The Cost of Discipleship by D. Bonhoeffer, and this book, Life Together, by the same author. This book changed my perspective...totally, on how to live with 'my neighbour.' Think you really do love your neighbour? What about your brother and sister in the Lord? With so many church splits, arguments over trivial doctrinal issues, petty squabbles, and gossip justified as 'good ol' christian concern', this book is needed. It shows how we are REALLY to treat one another. Patterned after Christ, and based in scripture--this book is a must.
Gemeinsames Leben is short consisting of a mere 5 chapters:
2. The Day with Others;
3. The Day Alone;
4. Ministry; and
5. Confession and Communion (5).
The book begins with Psalms and ends with the sacrament of communion. In some sense, the community of God is framed with the word (scripture) and the sacraments—and so it is with Bonhoeffer.
Community. Bonhoeffer starts with a provocative quotation: Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1 ESV) Today, it would be considered political incorrect because the translation is literal (brothers, not brothers and sisters). For Bonhoeffer, it was provocative because the Old Testament was considered un-German, worse, Jewish, by the Nazi, hence forbidden.
Bonhoeffer’s second paragraph is no less provocative. He says:
It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies (17).
The mere existence of Christian community is a political statement and: a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer (19). Bonhoeffer expands on this thought saying:
The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the Triune God (20).
Bonhoeffer reframes the everyday experience of the Christian into the persecuted world in which he finds himself in Nazi Germany. This is possible only because: We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ (21). Community is also an antidote to self-centered, pretentious dreaming. Bonhoeffer writes: God is not a God of the emotions, but the God of truth (27).
The Day with Others. Bonhoeffer commends the keeping of the hours. For example, he states: The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ (41). The psalms are especially meaningful to Bonhoeffer as a model and mode for personal prayer (45). Here we learn what prayer means, what to pray, and how to pray in fellowship (47-48). For Bonhoeffer, Christian worship really never stops with continuous readings (50), hymn singing (57), prayer (71), table fellowship (66), and godly work (69).
The Day Alone. For Bonhoeffer, community is not an escape from loneliness—like the television in the psyche ward which is never turned off. He starts his discussion of time alone by saying: Many people seek fellowship because they are afraid to be alone (76). Bonhoeffer (78) commends silence as the mark of solitude (and speech as the mark of community). He sees 3 reasons to be alone during the day: for scriptural meditation, for prayer, and for intercession (81).
Ministry. For Bonhoeffer, ministry begins with humility and restraint. Evil thoughts should not even be dignified with expression (James 3:2; 91) and this evil begins with the discord over who should be in charge (Luke 9:46; 90). Bonhoeffer offers 3 services in ministry: listening (97), active helpfulness (99), and burden bearing (100). If these 3 services are not properly rendered, proclamation of the word is most perilous (104). Leadership accordingly depends also on these 3 services (108).
Confession and Communion. Sin isolates us both from God and from community. Bonhoeffer observes: Sin wants to remain unknown (112). He sees 2 dangers in confession of sin: first that the one hearing confessions will be overburdened and second that the confessor will try to elevate sin to “pious work” (baptize the sin into acceptance; 120). The sole objective of confession is absolution, not acceptance. Bonhoeffer proposes that confession occur the day prior to communion as a necessary step to participating in communion (121). For this reason, in part, communion is a joyous celebration because the slate has been wiped clean, so to speak.
How then can the church remain a faithful witness under persecution by a high-tech, secular culture? Bonhoeffer does not answer this question in words. Rather, he answers it by actions—let the church be the church! And so we should.
 Eric Metaxis. 2010. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Pages 162, 367-368.