In Which I Get Slapped Around By Bonhoeffer

One of my living heroes of the faith, Scotty Smith, tweeted this the other day:

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Life Together

Really?

I do love my dream of community. Holy crap, I love it a lot. I talk about it almost incessantly. Am I really “that guy”? Am I a destroyer?

Seriously, I’m not sure I really have all that many friendships anymore where I know how to talk about much else. I love … I LOVE to talk about the vertical realities of the gospel and the ways the sacrifice of Jesus frees us to live it out on the horizontal. It’s the purpose for this blog. It’s the topic of the book I’m writing.

I know hardly anything about sports. I have a black belt in jujitsu and also love my time in the gym. I suppose I’ve learned enough to talk a little intelligently about my areas, but they aren’t things I love to talk about. I was a voice major in college. I’m a graphic designer and photographer. I am fascinated by art and music and food and movies and culture. I like to pick apart literature and film. Conversations about these things are enjoyable, but they’re not the topics that I get excited about discussing.

Wow, could this sound any more self-congratulatory? I like to talk about the gospel. Well, of course I do! All good Christians should, right? I’m writing a blog post about whether I like to talk about Jesus for right or wrong reasons. That’s pretty self-righteous, right?

Here’s the truth. There are many reasons why I love to talk about gospel-driven community, and they’re not all as high-minded as I’d like you to think. Yes, I am captured by these ideas. I do believe that the vertical realities of our relationship with Christ necessarily must transform the horizontal outworking of the life we live. I am convicted that we have grown far too comfortable living in the gap between our own perceived inabilities and scripture’s clear call to freely shower those around us with forgiveness, mercy, and love. But I am also very, very selfish. I need this to be true, not because of some super-spiritual desire to see the Kingdom realized in flesh and blood, but because I actually need it. I’m lonely. I hurt. I struggle and suffer. I doubt. I need the Body. I need people around me. I need to be asked the hard questions. I need to be loved. I need people to chase after me, to insert themselves into my life. I need it. Some days … maybe most days, when I strive and wrestle for what I hope people will see as Christ-focused community, I’m probably really just looking for a place I can crawl into and escape the pain. It’s not about Jesus. It’s about me.

Here’s some more truth. I think it’s altogether possible that even when I’m talking about the gospel, I’m really not talking about the gospel all that much at all. I firmly believe that Jesus equals The Kingdom equals The Gospel. But grace-centered community isn’t the gospel. It will be an outgrowth of the gospel, absolutely. Jesus will draw a line down the center of our lives and show us both our horrific shortfall and be our ticket to perfect compliance. But community is only one part of that. The truth is that I’m very content to let every conversation about the gospel quickly fall into the well-worn groove (rut) of “How should we treat each other?/How should you treat me?”, when there are far more pressing questions that the presence of Jesus asks of me. There are far more uncomfortable questions. There are many tree trunks the gospel has yet to pry out of my eye.

So, Scotty and Dietrich, very much thanks for leaving me to wonder whether or not the whole idea of this blog was self-centered and blasphemous to begin with.

Just like the rest of my prayers.

 

3 comments

  1. Wow. Convicting. I’ve actually been struggling with this same thought…as usual, you’ve articulated it perfectly. But didn’t God create us for community? Yes, with Himself, but also with each other? So in that sense, to say we really “need” community…isn’t that just revealing our need for more of God through His image-bearers? And isn’t the Body (community) supposed to help with those things you described? I see what you’re saying, and I think a lot of my “need” for community is selfish, too. But maybe, while we’re being selfish and “needy,” someone else is getting the chance to be Jesus to us. Hence, community? I don’t know, just my thoughts. Great post, Rick. You rock at being able to confront the tough issues. Thanks for the healthy dose of conviction. ;)

    1. Yeah, I definitely think that’s how it’s supposed to work. I guess I just want my focus to be Jesus, and let everything else fall out from that starting point. “Seek first the Kingdom …” and all that. I think that pursuing even really good things (like the Body functioning in a healthy manner) before I chase after the Head is going to result in failure. God will not be a means to any end but Himself.

      1. I agree with you completely. Jesus has to come first. And last. And in between. Point being…getting to the place where Jesus is enough and the focus is totally on Him…that’s hard. I totally want that too though. “…focus on Jesus and let everything else fall out from that…” Good stuff. =)

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