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20 Quotes | Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

20 Quotes | Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is one of my favorite books on Christian community. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer offers a helpful and realistic view of what God has given us in our relationships within the body of Christ.

The first chapter gives a captivating and compelling description of Christian community. From there, Bonhoeffer moves into particular applications regarding a day in community, a day in solitude, ministry toward one another, and eating the Lord’s Supper together. I tried to mainly highlight the more general quotes in this post. This could have easily been a 40-quote post.

I hope you enjoy this sample:

God’s people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world. (18)

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer…. The aged John knows that his joy will not be full until he can come to his own people and speak face to face instead of writing with ink (2 John 12). (19)

If there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians! (20)

The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain; his brother’s is sure. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. (23)

The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, and the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. (26)

That dismisses once and for all the clamorous desire for more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. (26)

God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world…Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. (27)

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. (27)

Because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ…we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for giving us brethren…We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what he does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough? (28)

Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? (28)

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts…We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us in Christ. (29)

A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. (29)

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. (30)

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. (30)

Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love. Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy but in Christ and his Word.  Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above; it is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love. (35)

God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorrow, with pretentious busy haste, or even shame. Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day. (68)

Without the burden and labor of the day, prayer is not prayer, and without prayer, work is not work. (70)

Our strength and energy for work increase when we have prayed to God to give us the strength we need for our daily work. (71)

The Christian community is not a spiritual sanatorium. The person who comes into a fellowship because he is running away from himself is misusing it for the sake of diversion, no matter how spiritual this diversion may appear. (76)

Intercession means no more than to bring our brother into the presence of God, to see him under the Cross of Jesus as a poor human being and sinner in need of grace…This makes it clear that intercession is also a daily service we owe to God and our brother. He who denies his neighbor the service of praying for him denies him the service of a Christian. (86-87)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), renowned Christian minister and seminary professor, was imprisoned and ultimately executed by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. (New York, Harper Collins: 1954).

Purchase your own copy here: Life Together