Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Life together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just finished this classic by the German theologian martyred by the Nazis It outlines principles for community learnt at the serminary of which he was head.

It is all stimulating, but worth buying for the chapter on 'Ministry' which is applicable to all church contexts. This humbles the reader, cuts down any pride or judgementalism, affirming the virtues of restraint in speech, gentle service, readiness to listen, active helpfulness, bearing with one-another, and (so often missed) the need to speak of God's truth to each other. This chapter is worth publishing or printing as a stand alone booklet.

Some key quotes:

On restrain in speech, quoting Thomas a Kempis: "None speaketh surely but he that would gladly keep silence if he might."

Commenting on the problem of dryness in meditating on scripture: "'Seek God, not happiness' - this is the fundamental rule of all meditation."

"What does it matter if I suffer injustice? Would I not have deserved even wors punishment from God, if he had not dealt with me according to his mercy? Is not justice done to me a thousand times even in injustice?"

"We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the word of God."

"We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps - reading the Bible. When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that, not our way, but God's way must be done. It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God's 'crooked yet straight path' (Gottfried Arnold). They do not want a life that is crossed and balked. But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God."

"Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the servere rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin."