MB #040: Bonhoeffer, Expectations, And BuildingNov 19, 2023
Read Time:~3 Minutes
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Hey crew, today is your friendly reminder that health for a Christian father is often a lot more about spiritual health, relational health, and mental/emotional health, than it is about fasting, steak, barbells, or six packs.
One area we don't make time to talk enough about is relational health. The low hanging fruit of relational health is talking about marriage or parenting. But we're going to go a different direction and take a note from Dietrich Bonhoeffer today as we explore the topic of Christian community and the Church:
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly.
It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are the times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point are great times for the church are times when it's pulled down.
It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church. You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough.... Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
The main two points I want to call out here are:
- If you judge your community by holding expectations for them beyond the expectation that they stay aimed at orthodoxy and living well, you run the risk of destroying the very community that God has provided you. Our vision of community or "wish dream" as he calls it, is often the unspoken lens by which we judge our community by, even if that community is already authentic and faithful, brought together by God himself. Be careful of your expectations.
- You don't build the Church. Jesus builds it. You have a separate obligation...being faithful to stay obedient to the ordinary acts of confession, gospel proclamation, prayer, the one-anothers, etc.
Remembering that we aren't meant to be the builders, and that we can have a faithful Christian community even though it might not be meeting all our expectations, are essentials to relational health in our time.
If we think we must build the church, we run the risk of seeing others as a project, or a notch in the belt, or the means of fulfilling our call to evangelism somehow. We then wouldn't be as immediately mindful that they're simply an image bearer that we're called to love, admonish, feed, support financially, encourage towards good works, etc.
If we bring our preferences into community, then we run the risk of seeing others as a means to an end of serving our vision or preferences, rather than seeing them as the community God has provided to make us holy, in mutual submission, for the purpose of manifesting Christ in the world via his body.
Go in peace. Happy Sunday!
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