This week I began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work, “Life Together,” which is a dive into Christian community and the life of a believer in terms of relating with God and others. This looks to be a very interesting and pertinent read, especially given life today which seems so disconnected and impersonal. As Christians, an understanding of engaging in true and meaningful community with God and each other is so important to intentionally living out our faith in a counter-Christian culture, as well as obeying God’s command to gather with other believers in order to glorify him and edify each other.
Chapter 1 began the book on the topic of community. Bonhoeffer this week looked at Christian community, and the privilege it is to be a part of a meaningfully engaged, unified community of believers. What struck me the most as I read was the idea of the grace that is a strong community being a privilege, and something that not all Christians around the world get to enjoy so openly. Especially given the culture I live in, Westernized, modern American society, we as Christians are not facing open persecution, so community is something that I notice is often taken for granted by Christians. I think to the time we are in specifically, and have faced over the past eight or so months: the Coronavirus pandemic. During this time, many church communities have had to stop seeing each other in person, see less of each other, or change the way they go about gathering. This is not persecution we are and have been facing, but it is a challenge nonetheless and something we must adapt to. But this adaptation to regular community is something churches face around the world daily, and due to open persecution of the Christian faith rather than a virus. Reading Bonhoeffer’s description of community as a grace given from God and privilege to cherish reminded me to seek holding to that view in my own life.
And Bonhoeffer opened the discussion up to the importance of intentional engagement with that grace. He listed three truths of community: Christians need each other for the sake of Christ, Christians come together only through Christ, and Christians have been unified eternally because of and in Christ. Christ is fully at the center of community. After all, the church is his bride, and exists to glorify him, propagate his name, and encourage others in their identity in him. Without Jesus there is no church, no community, and no meaningful reason for community. It is because of Christ we gather, and for his purposes that we do so. Beginning with our personal community with Christ, we open up to a yearning for community with others who are likewise walking in community with Christ, and we walk together with one another in Christ, because of Christ, for Christ, and by the power and grace of Christ. Community is a privilege given by God’s grace out of the grace that is shown us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today, community is as important as ever, given all that is around us in culture to distract and divide us. Politically and socially, we are sought to be divided; academically and educationally, we are sought to be divided; through mass media and social media, we are sought to be divided; even through denominations of the church we are divided. If we are to be a shining light in the darkness of society, we as the church (an enthusiastic community of believers) must commit ourselves to engaging with Christ through the unification of community in him.