Bonhoeffer.jpgI consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together one of the most important theological works in the 20th Century. There is in this brief encounter with Bonhoeffer’s ideas a swelling gloom of Nazism, a palpable blur of what is to come, and an insight into how the Church is to conduct itself that makes the book a one-of-a-kind and I hope you own it, read it, and read it often.

Bonhoeffer combines profound insight into the psychology of how humans interact along with a constant holding of all things in the light of Scripture. One of his themes is selfish, emotional love vs. genuine spiritual love. The first excites itself out of what it can get while the second is rooted in our relationship to one another in Christ — it takes the relationship as it is to be in Christ and demands no more and expects no less.

Love is measured by its attributes: What do our relationships produce? Do they lead to truth, to freedom, and to fruits? What do you think of his ideas of the dangers of retreats?  

But these are his best words on the subject:

“Emotional love lives by uncontrolled and uncontrollable dark desires; spiritual love lives in the clear light of service ordered by the truth. Self-centered love results in human enslavement, bondage, rigidity; spiritual love creates the freedom of Christians under the Word. Emotional love breeds artificial hothouse flowers; spiritual love creates the fruits that grow healthily under God’s open sky, according to God’s good pleasure in the rain and storm and sunshine” (44).

In the same section: “A life together under the Word will stay healthy only when it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis [association of piety], but instead understands itself as being part of the one, holy, universal, Christian church, sharing through its deeds and suffering in the hardships and struggles and promise of the whole church” (45).
“Nothing is easier than to stimulate the euphoria of community in a few days of life together [a retreat, a conference]; and nothing is more fatal to the healthy, sober, everyday life in community of Christians” (47).
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