“We have considered thus far the daily morning worship of Christian everyday-life communities. God’s Word, the hymns of the church, and the prayers of the community of faith stand at the beginning of the day.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 46.
Can we relate to the term, “everyday-life communities”? Bonhoeffer envisions Christians living in close proximity to one another, either in immediate communal settings or in neighborhoods that lend themselves to daily gatherings that nurture communal life. As he witnesses the broader church washed away by the onslaught of National Socialism and heresy, he sees that small groups of faithful disciples living life together is critical for the preservation of Gospel witness, the preservation of the true church, and the preservation of families and individuals within the true church.
Is such a thing possible? Can we live in “everyday-life communities”? Can we experience life together? What are the challenges to “everyday-life communities”?
Bonhoeffer has laid the foundation of the community by beginning with Jesus Christ and His Word, and then moving to prayer and singing (worship). Without the centrality of Jesus Christ and living under the Word in worship there is no firm foundation for life together. No novel idea or doctrine or practice, no rejection of other traditions, no need for self-preservation, no desire for esoteric knowledge or spiritual experience – none of these things is a sufficient foundation for life together, in fact, they are all detrimental to the Body of Christ. Life together must be rooted in Jesus Christ and lived under His Word or else it is but a matter of time and circumstance before the community disintegrates. Only Christ and His Word endure forever and through all things; everything else falls away, everything else is dust, everything else will rust. As Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter, “Outside the Bible everything else is uncertain.”
Living in proximity to one another means more that geographical closeness, it also means relational closeness. This idea is frightening or troubling for many of us for we are accustomed to living closed and selfish lives. We are careful about close relationships lest they expose our vulnerabilities and make demands on us; we have our own life agendas which cause us to hoard time and resources. Our resources and our time and our vulnerabilities are our own and we don’t care to surrender control of them.
Time has become our master – not Christ. We work, we eat, we seek entertainment, we sleep (or try to), and the cycle begins again. We convince ourselves that we deserve what we have, what we seek, what we indulge in – our lives are privatized (at least in the West). In church we may have small groups that meet periodically, but more often than not the groups are not rooted in systematic Biblical thinking and understanding and require no cost of discipleship. We are people of convenience and relationships are not always convenient. There can be no life together if life is about me, there can be life together when life is about Jesus Christ and His people and others.
Am I practicing community? Am I nurturing relationships in Jesus Christ? Am I encouraging other disciples to live in relationship with the Body of Christ? Am I fighting the societal and cultural elements that feed my selfishness? Am I allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord of my time –or am I the slave of time?
I don’t know if “Christian everyday-life communities” are possible in North American.
What do you think?
What does my life say about Christian everyday-life community?
What does your say?