“Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the common life, is not the one who sins still a person with whom I too stand under the word of Christ? Will not another Christian’s sin be an occasion for me ever anew to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches me that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ? The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 11.
Continuing our reflection on Bonhoeffer’s above words from our last post…
A functioning body of believers, a body in which every member is contributing to the life of the body by building one another up in love (Ephesians 4:11 – 16), is a body more apt to be able to work through great disillusionment and conflict because its members are living in the realty of Christ and learning to work that reality out in life together. A body learning to experience the reality of life together is a body which is strengthening its connective tissue in Jesus Christ.
All too often when we think of every member participating in a local church we think in terms of everyone having a “job”. While there may be many “jobs” to do in a congregation, we are not talking about everyone having a “job”, we are talking about everyone sharing the grace of God, we are talking about exercising our gifts according the grace given to us and encouraging one another to do the same (Romans Chapter 12). Often having a job will detract from discovering the grace given to us, especially if the job is the focal point. We don’t need the equivalent of job fairs in church, we need grace fairs, gift fairs – places and environments where men and women and young people are encouraged to function in grace toward one another.
Everyone in Christ has the grace of Christ to share with others. Everyone in Christ has the Word of Christ to share with others. Everyone in Christ has the prayers of Christ to pray on behalf of others. It is the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12) to nurture and encourage and facilitate a functioning body of believers sharing life together; it is not the role of the people in the foregoing ministries to preempt the growth of the body nor to put themselves in place of Jesus Christ, the head of the body.
When people have a voice then there is opportunity to listen, to discuss, to conciliate, to work through concerns and to refine direction. When people do not have a voice then undercurrents develop until they burst forth with such force that they damage relationships. God’s people are to be transformed into the image of Christ, not the image of a pastor or a national leader or even in the image of a denomination or tradition or the latest teaching, “revelation”, or movement.
Bonhoeffer’s great disillusionment is a great opportunity to live in the reality of Christ, a great opportunity to learn to live redemptively toward others in Christ, and a great opportunity to practice mutual submission in Christ. If there can be no resurrection except there first be a death, then let us learn to see great disillusionment for what it can be – the Good Friday before Easter in our life together.