Life Together was written by Bonhoeffer as a manual to living in intentional community with other believers. This is important to remember when beginning it.
The book is divided into five sections:
a. In this he talks about the basis of Christian community—pretty much that it should be based on our relationship with Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.
2. The Day with Others
a. What should your prayer and worship times look like in the morning and evening? He has it well prescribed. Most readers will find it rigid and only slightly helpful.
3. The Day Alone
a. What should your alone time look like when living in community with others? Much emphasis on the disciplines of solitude, silence, meditation and prayer.
b. I really liked the way he started out this chapter: “Many people seek fellowship because they are afraid to be alone. Because they cannot stand loneliness, they are driven to seek the company of other people,” and he goes on to say, “Let him who cannot be along beware of community,” and “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. (p. 76 and 77).
c. What he said on meditation is the best thing I’ve heard to help me to understand it…”It is not necessary that we should discover new ideas in our meditation. Often this only diverts us and read feeds our vanity. It is sufficient if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells within us. As Mary ‘pondered in her heart’ the things that were told by the shepherds, as what we have casually overheard follows us for a long time, sticks in our minds, occupies, disturbs, or delights us, without our ability to do anything about it, so in meditation God’s Word seeks to enter in and remain with us.”
i. I LOVE this because I’m the type of person who has a tendency to replay events in my life, analyzing the words and actions, having a hard time forgiving and forgetting, or thinking about things over and over, like a food I really want or an experience I long to have, sometimes driving myself crazy. Scripture rarely does this for me, so I want to get to this place.
a. What do people in community do for one another? What is important when living with other people in such close quarters, and with such intentionality? Bonhoeffer gives some great suggestions.
i. The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue
1. Basically keeping our thoughts to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell someone—I was convicted that I shouldn’t even “vent” these to Jake (my “other”). Bonhoeffer gives a case that if we keep our evil thoughts in our heads, this is the best way to combat them.
ii. The Ministry of Meekness
1. Thinking little of oneself. This one really challenged me. Sometimes I think that I’m less sinful that I am, or that others sins are somehow worse than mine. But, with this, he’s saying, you have to realize that you are a sinner—that you should consider your sin the same, if not worse than others, which will lend to a spirit of forgiveness, patience, and love towards your brothers or sisters in Christ when they are driving you crazy by the sin you see in their lives (because you will, because you live with them).
iii. The Ministry of Listening
1. Even back in his day, people just liked to talk a lot and offer solutions. He said we need more listeners. GOOD listeners.
iv. The Ministry of Helpfulness
1. Serving others daily is vital. Even if it’s things like cleaning the bathroom or cooking dinner or something really practical that someone else needs. Not with a tally in one’s head either, but just genuine service out of an attitude of this is what we’re made to do- to serve. Everyday.
v. The Ministry of Bearing
1. Bearing each other’s burdens. Letting people be different from you. Forgiving them quickly. Suffering with others. Rejoicing with others.
vi. The Ministry of Proclaiming
1. Speaking God’s Word to others. Allowing yourself to be a vessel to do that, and allowing others to do that for you, trusting that God is going to use each other in your formation as a person. But Bonhoeffer is quick to emphasize that this shouldn’t be judging, but should be firm if needed.
vii. The Ministry of Authority
1. Not elevating one person as the most important or highest authority in the group.
5. Confession and Communion
a. Practicing confession with one another, both ways. And he talks about not having to confess necessarily to the whole community, but one person is fine, and the person can offer forgiveness to that person on behalf of the whole community. And finally, to share in the Lord’s Supper with one another in a biblical way…giving time leading up to it for people to confess to God things, and to each other things so that the Lord’s Table is kept pure.
So that’s it! It’s short, but sweet. The first half was slow and not helpful to me. There were a lot of things that I disagreed with, but the last few chapters were really challenging and helpful as I think about living in intentional Christian community in the future. I think this would be a helpful book for people to use in talking about community expectations, desires, goals, etc.
Here’s to authentic, intentional, Christ-centered community! An experience we Malloys deeply dream of sharing in … we’ve had great beginnings in this…