ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a son of a famous German psychiatrist, born in Breslau in 1906. At the time of his academia, he studied in Berlin and New York City. He left the safety of America to return to Germany and maintained his public denial of the Nazi. This led to his arrest in 1943. He was linked to a group of conspirators whose attempted assassination failed; unfortunately, he was hanged in April 1945. After his execution at the hands of the Gestapo in 1945, he continued his witness in the hearts of Christians around the world as the result of the legacy he left behind. His letters and papers from jail has become a prized testimony to Christian faith and courage and they are read by thousands of Christians around the world. This story of Life Together is a unique experience Pastor’s Bonhoeffer of a Christian community. He run an underground seminary during the regime of the Nazi and was fascinated to run this seminary during the existence of this diabolical and tyrannical regime of Germany.
Life Together is a deep rooted Christian oriented book experiential which centrally places on the cost of following Jesus written by its author and martyrs, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a witness of Jesus Christ among his brethren. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost biblical words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship. The reading of Life Together serves as impetus to spiritually propel a believer to count the cost of following Jesus Christ.
This book deals with the community of people in a diverse or universal world including Christians, non-Christians, atheists, and pagans. It does not only deal with these groups as mentioned, but it also deals with days with others which include believers who bear similar cross in following Christ. It does not only deal with the days with others; but it also deals with the day alone when one is humiliated by enemy forces. It does not only deals with the days alone, but it also deals the protocols in running a successful ministry as a child of God. It finally concludes with confession and communion of sins and saints respectively.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in the community of the inclusion; so, Christians live today in the community of inclusion. This community rejects absolutism and encourages relativism. There is no absolute truth based on their humanistic ideological philosophy; therefore, the saying of the truth in their hearing becomes a weapon of provocation to them; consequently, Christians become the target of prosecution that can cause their death. The writer writes, “Jesus lived among his enemies when the disciples deserted him; therefore, Christians live in the community where there are enemies opposed to them (Bonhoeffer, pp. 26). This book addresses a community of people who are enemies for Christ’s followers.
THE DAYS WITH OTHERS
In his agony during the regime of the Nazi, there were times, Bonhoeffer was alone and there were times he was physically present with the people he was pasturing. During this time, he had worship with the congregation he pastored at the time. Unfortunately, when the day of his execution came, he was no more. There are times in the Christian life, we become isolated physically or spiritual due to some situations we face at the time.
This book addresses a situation wherein the minister of God becomes isolated due to some situations either physical or spiritual. Whatever the situation may be, God is on the scene as the result of his sovereignty. The writer states, “The disintegration of communication and all genuine experience and finally resignation and spiritual life are the result of such attempts to find cure” (Bonhoffer, pp. 49). Every time we face loneliness in our lives as Christians, we feel unfulfilled. Our loneliness in lives could be due to persecution we face presently. At time of his imprisonment, he felt abandoned as the result of the break in communication with the outside world. Such experience without the Spirit of grace can make one to deny Christ as Lord and Savior. Every martyr who died for Christ had special grace and ability to stand in the face of trial without giving in to the enemies.
This book discusses the dimensions of ministry in practicality. Spiritual ministry has lot of implications when it comes to practicality. Ministers are mandated to hold their tongues. This becomes difficult for some people. The Bible says that we should be quick to listen, but slow to speak according to Proverbs. How many of us are quick to listen instead of speaking? Many a time, we speak too much instead of listening. The writer states, “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words. It is certain that the spirit of self-justification can be overcome only by the Spirit of grace; nevertheless, isolated thoughts of judgment can be curbed and smothered by never allowing them the right to be uttered, except as a confession of sin” (Bonhoeffer, pp.91-92). This is true of spiritual battle we face daily as ministers of the Kingdom. We encounter insidious attack from the enemy through the people we lead, pastor, and even our household which includes our wives, husbands, and children. Jesus said that a man’s enemy is found in his household. Due to insidious attack in which human agents are used, we tend to harbor ill-feeling against those who go against us; though, we may not expressed them. Holding our tongues should have direct effect the way we think about people who wrong us. This can be resolved by forgiving those we wrong us.
In ministry, we are not only called to hold our tongue; but we are also called to listen. He writes, “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them” (Bonhoeffer, pp. 97). The people whom you listen to, is the person whom you honor. Listening is the act of respecting or honoring the person listened to. If we are ministers of God, we should learn to listen to our wives, husbands, children, and the people we lead as leaders. Listening to someone means also loving the person with Christ’s love.
We are not only called to listen, but we are also called into the ministry of help. Help ministry is the important component that is crucial to having a successful well-run and manageable ministry. It is the ministry of service and generosity that pastors’ wives are anticipated to be involved. The ministry of mercy is intertwined with the ministry of help.
One of the foremost important aspects of this ministry is the ministry of teaching or preaching. When Jesus ascended into heaven according to Ephesians 4:11-13, he gave gifts to men for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry so that they become matured and not be carried away by every wind of doctrines. Ministers are called and placed in the ministry of discipleship. We are to disciple the people of God so that they can also go out to disciple others. This is the theory of leadership multiplication in the Kingdom. Paul commanded Timothy in Timothy to carry out this strategy of disciple-making in the Kingdom of God.
We are not only called to the ministry of proclamation, but we are also called to exercise authority over the people that God has given us. The exercise of authority over the church should start with our homes. The Bible declares if a man is not able to control his home, he can not be the leader of God’s people. If wives or children are not paying due respect to the pastor husband; then, it becomes a problem for the pastor to manage the house of God. The fact is that once the wife or children are not respecting the husband in the home, the possibility which exists is that the woman is going to carry it out on the church level as well. This makes pastors’ wives very important figure in the Gospel ministry. The wife of pastor should be a support to him and not a destructive force to pull him and church ministry down. This is frustrating and heart breaking for the pastor who has the vision to reach people.
These areas mentioned such as community of people, the days with others, the days alone, and the protocols involved in running a successful and viable ministry are situations God places and uses to lead the believers to set Goals that can never be forgotten. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a signature for such declaration. He is dead, but he is still speaking will continue to speak throughout generations as long as his book remains on planet earth prior to the return of Christ. Today, our contemporary world of Christianity can stand for the truth because men and women had died for this Gospel we preach. In all of these, God who is a sovereign God who is in the business of making his will known through men for men of martyrdom.