Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Gift of Disillusionment

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wisely warns that the "greatest danger" of Christian community is idealism. We cannot help, and myself most of all, entering each church community with a host of wishful ideas. We bring agendas, priorities, our own reading of the biblical text and very quickly run smack into the wall of "divine reality", the church as it really is.

Bonhoeffer posits in Life Together that the next most important step for us in a true church setting is disillusionment: "we must be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in our dream world".

Far from resulting in static, lifeless communities, true disillusionment with our ideals tills the hard ground of pride and pretense to make way for good fruit. First, we receive our local community as we ought, with thanksgiving. Second, "the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together - the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ". Third, we cease hindering God with our petty complaints of disappointment and allow him to grow our fellowship "according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ".

"He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter."

3 comments:

Christina Ottis said...

My small group just did a short study on Bonhoeffer (by an actual German, no less) and this point struck me more than any others. For the past 5 months my roomates and I (a married couple and another single woman) have attempted to "live in community." It hasn't been easy, and I see how different expectations have made it difficult. An interesting note - we began by having some guidelines in order to encourage the communal living, we didn't just want everyone to do their own thing. For example, we divided up chores and different nights to cook and do dishes, a certain night to pray together, etc. What we found though, is that ended up limiting the way we served each other. Instead of doing my friends' dishes, i left them for the person who was assigned that night. It was supposed to create community, but it only created tension and a sense of duty rather than service.

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Christina Ottis said...

i meant that a German person led the study. :) they pronounce Bonhoeffer really funny.

Phill Grooms said...

Indeed.

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