1 – Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazi Regime. In a 1933 broadcast over Berlin radio he openly states his opposition – knowing the eventual cost of this decision.
2 – In April 1943 – Bonhoeffer was arrested and incarcerated.
3 – While in prison, Bonhoeffer was constantly ministering to other prisoners. He spread happiness and joy over everything – even over little things – to the prisoners.
4 – Bonhoeffer held on to his joy to the end of his life as he fixed his eyes on heaven. When he was about to die he called his death the beginning of life.
Chapter 1: Community
1 – Bonhoeffer begins the entire chapter – and book – saying, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity” (Ps 133). I love this psalm. It is the foundation of our community. I pray this psalm every day.
2 – It is a privilege to live with other Christians – and not to be taken for granted.
3 – The physical presence of other Christians is a source of great joy and great strength
4 – Grace is the basis of community living. Grace inspires and motivates us to live together
5 – FIRST: Salvation is grounded in Jesus – not in ourselves, our things. While people cannot be the basis of our salvation, we are called to be facilitators of God’s love in community. So, community living is us speaking God’s word to one another and bringing the message of God’s love to each other. Community is a call to “Love one another as Jesus loves us.”
6 – SECOND: “In Christ,” community members have the grace to live in peace. They can love and serve one another. Apart from Christ – we will find division in community. “In Christ,” grace overcomes our sinful ways. Grace moves us to love and forgive and stay together. Grace binds us together. So, we need to go to God and seek grace every day. Grace helps us love and love covers a multitude of sins.
7 – THIRD, we are “In Christ.” Being “In Christ,” Jesus himself wants to teach us how to love each other. Our brotherhood now is a foretaste of what it will be like in heaven – no division, no resentments, no jealousy, no sin. Jesus wants to help us live this life now.
8 – Our basis for community is this: What Jesus has done for us. There is no other basis for community – sports, family, business, marriage, etc, is good – but none of these are the same as being grounded “In Christ.” Faith tells us that nothing and no one can do what Jesus did for us. There is no substitute for God’s love.
9 – The more genuine our love for each other the more our differences go away. Because receiving God’s love always moves us to be changed and to give God’s love away.
10 – Community – brotherhood lived – is not an ideal, it is a divine reality.
11- We must thank God for giving us each other. Thank him for the gift of divine fellowship.
12 – The gift of thankfulness – for each other – is a treasure meant to be prayed by our community and displayed. We have to stop complaining and increase thankfulness.
13 – Life together in community is a way to work out our salvation – we call this winning the battle for our minds. We all need the help from each other. Brotherly love is a gift.
14 – A community of the Spirit is different from a human community
15 – A human community will be dominated by personality while a Spirit community is dominated by love (See 1 Corinthians 13). Spirit community longs to give and to serve. A human community does not understand this point and so has limitations.
16 – In a Spirit community Jesus stands between each person. He shows us how to love.
17 – In a Spirit community we all must do what we can to release everyone else from our human efforts to regulate, coerce, dominate etc others.
18 – In a Spirit community Jesus asks people to reach out to the weak, the poor, the hurt, the unconverted, and never exclude them.
19 – Jesus alone is our unity, our peace, our reason for joy in and the reason for our fellowship/life together with each other.
20 – Behold how good and pleasant it is when brother live together in unity (Psalm 133). May we all pledge ourselves to be in unity with each other – no secrets, no private agenda, no desire to dominate others – for the rest of our lives.
Summary of Chapter 1
According to Bonhoeffer, “life together” in community is the best way for people to work out their personal salvation. Christian community, according to Bonhoeffer, is a sheer grace from God, for which we ought to give thanks every day. Its foundation is not human “camaraderie” but the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore Christ’s will, not ours, must reign supreme within the community and as individuals.
Chapter 2: The Day With Others
- The Day’s Beginning
- “The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ. At the break of light it remembers the morning on which death and sin lay prostrate in defeat and new life and salvation were given to mankind.”
- So it is right to come together early in the morning for common praise of God, common hearing of the Word, and common prayer. Morning belongs to the church, the Christian family, the brotherhood/sisterhood.
- The first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.
- The beginning of the day should not be beset with concerns for the day’s work.
- Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Jesus arose early to seek God.
- The Secret of the Psalter
- The Psalms are God’s word and the prayers of people at the same time.
- Some of the Psalms are difficult to pray (vindication, imprecatory, etc). These indicate that it is Christ who is praying the Psalter through his whole church. A verse may not be for you, personally, but it may be for someone else.
- Praying the Psalms teaches us:
- To pray according to the Scriptures.
- To pray as people who are in Christ.
- To pray as a body of believers.
- To unceasingly pray so that God’s word may more fully penetrate our hearts.
- Reading the Scriptures
- There’s a value in reading longer portions (a chapter) of the Old and New Testament because Scripture is a living whole.
- Consecutive reading brings us into the narrative of God’s story, which is much bigger than our our own individual lives: “Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history”.
- Singing the New Song
- When we enter the Christian community, we join in a great song of praise sung by those in heaven and on earth.
- “The heart sings because it is overflowing with Christ. That is why all singing in the church is a spiritual performance….Where the heart is not singing there is no melody, there is only the dreadful medley of human self-praise.”
- “In singing together, it is possible to speak and pray the same Word at the same time…The music is completely the servant of the Word.”
- It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together—not the voice of the individual.
- Saying Our Prayers Together
- “All fear of one another, all timidity about praying freely in one’s own words in the presence of others may be put aside where in all simplicity and soberness the common, brotherly prayer is lifted to God by one of the brethren.”
- The people not praying aloud should intercede for the one who is.
- Petitions repeated daily provide freedom from prayer that is too individualistic
- Sometimes the person designated to pray isn’t in the right “spiritual” mood, but they should pray nonetheless—it should not be governed by moods. Rather, “the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26).
- Formal prayers which are beautiful and profound can become an evasion of real prayer if not genuine.
- The Fellowship of the Table
- “The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus keeps with his own: daily fellowship at table, the table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, and the final table fellowship in the Kingdom of God. But in all three the one thing that counts is that “their eyes were opened, and they knew him”.
- Knowing Jesus in the presence of these gifts means:
- Knowing him as the giver of all gifts, as Lord and Creator.
- Knowing that all earthly gifts are given for Christ’s sake, for the gospel.
- Believing that Jesus is present when we pray for his presence: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest”.
- “Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day.”
- We share our daily bread, preventing those among us from going hungry.
- The Day’s Work
- “Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer…Only where each receives its specific due will it become clear that both belong inseparably together.
- Work is an instrument of God for purification from self-centeredness and self-seeking.
- “The prayer of the Christian reaches beyond its set time and extends into the heart of his work…it does not hinder the work; it promotes it, affirms it, and lends it meaning and joy…Thus…every work becomes a prayer…The prayer of the morning will determine the day”.
- Noonday and Evening
- We can’t take it for granted that our work provides us with bread, this is rather God’s order of grace.
- “It is an excellent thing if the evening devotion can be held at the actual end of the day…When night falls, the true light of God’s Word shines brighter for the Church.
- This is a time for common intercessions. We have more sense of God’s power and working in the hour when our hands lay down their work and we commit ourselves into the hands of God.
- Also a time for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
- The ancient Christians prayed for “the protection of the holy angels and their golden weapons…when our eyes are closed in sleep God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake…Even in sleep God can perform his wonders upon us”.
Chapter 3: The Day Alone
- Solitude and Silence
- Christians can’t look to community to be a distraction from loneliness. God has called us as individuals and we must be able to be alone with God.
- At the same time, God has called us into community to love and serve. “Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship…Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech….The day also needs definite times of silence, silence under the Word.”
- “Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God…to honor and receive it….silence before the Word leads to right hearing and thus also to right speaking of the Word of God at the right time.”
- Times of silence within a household fellowship help to refresh us.
- Meditation (on the Scriptures)
- Time spent being alone with the Word, especially focusing on shorter passages, provides solid ground and clear direction for the rest of the day. “We expose ourselves to the specific word until it addresses us personally”—often waiting until the busy-ness of our minds subsides.
- During meditation, it isn’t necessary to express our thoughts in words or to discover new ideas. We want the Word to penetrate and dwell within us. “God’s Word seeks to enter in and remain with us. It strives to stir us, to work and operate in us, so that we shall not get away from it the whole day long. Then it will do its work in us, often without our being conscious of it.”
- It’s not necessary to have extraordinary experiences. And we shouldn’t worry too much about our difficulties in meditation. Instead, we should try our best to “center our attention on the Word alone”. “Seek God, not happiness…if you seek God alone, you will gain happiness”.
- The best prayer is prayer that has its basis in God’s Word.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if your mind wanders; you can incorporate those stray thoughts into a prayer.
- “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”
- Intercession is bringing our brothers and sisters into the presence of God to stand before Christ and share in his mercy.
- “Intercession is a daily service we owe to God and our brother.”
- It’s best to keep petitions definite (specific).
- Intercession is “an incalculably great gift of God, we should accept it joyfully”.
- We may insist upon having a quiet time of prayer—for most people, it’s the early morning.
- The Test of Meditation
- Being alone in an unchristian environment (like work) is a time of testing.
- It’s a test of whether the Christian fellowship has helped us become free, strong, and mature people. And of whether the fellowship intercedes effectively.
- It’s a test of whether our meditation has enabled God’s Word to lodge itself securely in our heart, impelling us toward love.
- Every act of self-control during meditation is a service to the fellowship. Likewise every sin inflicts injury upon the whole fellowship. “We are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction.”
Chapter 4: Ministry
- The natural man compares himself with others and instinctively takes up a position of defensiveness—even in polite, pious environments.
The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue
- Discipining the tongue from slander helps a person to be less scrutinizing and judgmental of others—though he recognizes that “God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the Creator… I can never know beforehand how God’s image should appear in others”.
- Diversity among us is cause for rejoicing and serving one another
- Every member ought to receive a definite task to perform for the community so they may know they are truly indispensable.
The Ministry of Meekness
- Consider one another’s will and honor as more important than your own.
- “The sin of resentment that flares up so quickly in the fellowship indicates … how much false desire for honor, how much unbelief, still smolders in the community”
- “If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller… in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.”
The Ministry of Listening
- The 1st service we owe to others in the fellowship is listening to them—it’s the beginning of love for them. Listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for someone to listen, but they don’t find that person among Christians because we’re talking when we should be listening.
- If we cannot listen to others, can we really listen to God?
- There’s a half-listening which isn’t really listening. If we refuse to give ear to our brothers in lesser subjects, can we be capable of hearing our brother’s confession? (And will they trust us?). “We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”
The Ministry of Helpfulness
- “Nobody is too good for the meanest service.”
- “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…Do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”
- “Only where hands are not too good for deeds of love and mercy in everyday helpfulness can the mouth joyfully and convincingly proclaim the message of God’s love and mercy.”
The Ministry of Bearing
- “The brother is a burden to the Christian, precisely because he is a Christian. For the pagan the other person never becomes a burden at all. He simply sidesteps every burden that others may impose upon him.”
- God bore the burden of men as a mother carries her child and a shepherd enfolds his lost lamb.
- We are to bear the freedom of the other person—the individual image of God, the nature, personality, including the weaknesses and oddities—to the point of taking joy in it.
- We are to bear the abuse of the freedom of the other (sin) in forgiveness and restoration.
- Forgiveness “occurs, without words, in the intercessions for one another.”
The Ministry of Proclaiming
- “Then where the ministry of listening, active helpfulness, and bearing with others is faithfully performed, the ultimate and highest service can also be rendered … the ministry of the Word of God.”
- Speaking the Word is “beset with infinite perils”: i.e. is the person really listening, has the speaker been actively helpful, is it sincere, is it the right or wrong time to speak? It can be difficult to even speak the name of Jesus in front of a brother. Do we have the right to confront our neighbor and speak? We are our brother’s keeper—though we should recognize others’ right to freedom from interference.
- The basis on which we can speak to one another the Word is that we recognize that we’re all sinners who are lost without help and who can share in God’s grace and glory.
- “Why should we think that our brother would not understand us, when we understood very well what was meant when somebody spoke God’s comfort or God’s admonition to us, perhaps in words that were halting and unskilled?”
- We ought to recognize our own inability to help others (without God) and so to rely on the power of God’s Word and not our abilities.
The Ministry of Authority
- “Genuine spiritual authority is to be found only where the ministry of hearing, helping, bearing, and proclaiming is carried out.” Authority is dependent on brotherly service.
- There’s a natural tendency to want leadership of personality, but the NT Bishop is not charming or brilliant, but rather simple, faithful, and sound.
- “Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.”
Chapter 5: Confession and Communion
Loneliness of sin
- “the pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners…You can dare to be a sinner.”
Breaking Through to Community
- Sin isolates and destroys, it shuns the light. Concealed sin makes apparent fellowship “a sham”. But confession causes the light of the Gospel to pierce through and brings breakthrough
- Breakthrough over self-justification
- “If a Christian is in the fellowship of confession with a brother, he will never be alone again, anywhere.”
Breaking Through to the Cross
- Confession is a dreadful blow to pride, when the old man dies. So we “scheme to evade confessing to a brother”.
- When we confess, we bear the cross and have fellowship with Christ (who died the public death of the sinner). And we also share in his resurrection.
Breaking Through to New Life
- Confession creates a break with sin, a conversion, a victory.
- “What happened to us in baptism is bestowed upon us as anew in confession. We are delivered out of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That is joyful news. Confession is the renewal of the joy of baptism”
Breaking Through to Certainty
- Confessing to a brother brings sin into the light, breaks the cycle of self-deception, makes us aware of God’s presence in the reality of the other person, and gives us certainty of forgiveness. It is more objective than confessing sins within your own mind. It is a mercy and grace.
- We should confess concrete sins, by using the Ten Commandments as a guide.
- “Confession is not a law, it is an offer of divine help for the sinner”. Luther also thought confession was necessary for a full Christian life.
To Whom Confess?
- According to Bonhoeffer, any brother who has recognized the wickedness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, who cannot be horrified by the sin of another because he has seen his own—any brother under the Cross.
- Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it doesn’t understand sin.
- Only a person who confesses should hear confessions. It isn’t good for one person to hear all the community’s confessions.
- Do not let confession become a pious work—it is God’s grace and mercy, not a routine duty.
The Joyful Sacrament
- Confession prepares the community to receive Communion, so that we don’t come to the table with unreconciled hearts.
“The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in body and blood at the table of the Lord so will they be together in