Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a little book about what it means to live in Christian community entitled, ‘Life Together’. For those of you who have never heard of Bonhoeffer, he is ‘kind of a big deal’ within the Reformed tradition and the larger Christian Church.
So yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about community this past year. The term ‘community’ has become a bit of a ‘buzz’ word amongst different circles, especially within the church. And to be honest, I think a lot of young adults think about it whether or not they want to place a label on it. Who are my real friends? Who is my family? What does marriage look like today? Do I need to have children to be an adult? And the oldy, but goody, ‘Who is my neighbor’?
Well, without getting into a formal book report, Bonhoeffer addresses some of the valuable characteristics of a Christian community, and some of them surprised me. Prayer, devotion, singing, confession, fellowship, and labor are a few of what he brings up. I’m not sure if harmonized singing will destroy a community, but I think he’s got a lot of good points, as well as some ideas that I have to think about some more.
One point in particular that Bonhoeffer expends quite a bit of energy into is the idea of continually supporting your brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, this sounds great, but this can also present some great difficulties. He concludes this section by mentioning that there is a time for admonishment and accountability, but how does support and admonishment interact within Christian relationships? How do we love the brother or sister who hurts us? Are we called to forgive and move on? Or do we have a Christian obligation to ‘call them out’ for their wrongdoing?
I’ve especially been thinking about this a great deal since having several conversations with colleagues concerning pastors who have ‘gone astray’ and engaged in poor behavior and ethical decisions. How are we to support this person who we have promised to uphold and support as they are called to lead our congregations, while they too, are sinful human beings just like anyone else? On a larger front, how are we to confront ANYONE who may be leading an unfaithful life, while we are called to constantly support them? What happens when the people we look up to disappoint us?
Some good fuel for the ongoing conversation of what ‘community’ looks like in today’s world, as I continue to discover that community in my daily life.