Sometimes I pick up books from random places and don’t even remember picking the books up. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those books. I’m sure it was the author’s name that caught my eye. An important theologian with quite a story, it seems odd that I haven’t read any of his writings. I’m sure when I saw this book in a stack of giveaways somewhere, it is the author’s name that led me to grab it.
I am so glad I did.
The great thing about reading a used book are the notes left by previous readers. This copy has blue/yellow/pink highlights, pencil underlines, black ink notes, and now, my own brackets in the margins. Life Together is that kind of book.
It tells the story of christian fellowship in an underground seminary during Nazi Germany. Life Together is deeply pastoral and practical, yet I wonder if it is really applicable in today’s world. Don’t get me wrong, I want it to be applicable. I wish I could be living out my life as Bonhoeffer describes. It seems idealistic, and yet I must remember that he was writing during one of the worst periods in modern world history. And eventually, Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazi’s for his outspoken opposition to their regime.
Life Together talks about the importance of community worship and prayer (specifically praying the Psalms), the connection between time with others and time alone, the call of all believers to use their gifts for ministry, and the necessity of confession and Holy Communion. And it talks a lot about love.
Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become. It takes the life of the other person into its own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of that other person which he has received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all me.
Therefore, spiritual love proves itself in that everything it says and does commends Christ. It will not seek to move others by all too persona, direct influence, by impoure interferences in the life of another. …Thus this spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother more than to a brother about Christ.Life Together, pg. 36
Life Together is a book I will keep and refer back to time and time again. It is the kind of book that will seem new each time I read it. Bonhoeffer is real about struggle and honest about our need for Jesus. I need both those reminders time and time again.
If you’ve read Life Together, I’d love to know what you thought! Or, if you have read other Bonhoeffer writings, what do you recommend next?
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