A Gem From Life Together
As we contemplate ways of encouraging spiritual family, the classic book by Bonhoeffer, Life Together comes to mind. There is too much meat in that little book to cover thoroughly in a single article, but there is a gem of truth from that book that I?d like to recall and think about.
Ever since I became a believer during the Jesus movement and spent the first 8 years of my Christian experience in a commune, I have had the impression that spiritual family was the essence of a true and valid Christian life. After leaving the commune, I was disappointed in the depth of relationship I found in regular churches. I felt I had a relationship soupspoon that was too large for the shallow relationship bowl I was eating from in mainline churches. In the intervening years, I have gravitated to a Christian life focused on relationships, as opposed to being focused on being a part of an organization.
The first concept that I stumbled on in Life Together literally shook the whole foundation of my Christian perspective on relationship and community.
When I first sat down to read Life Together, I got stuck on the first few pages. There I read that Christian Community is a precious gift of grace that God allows you to experience at times. We need to treasure those times, because there will be seasons in our lives when we do not have it.
Bonhoeffer reminded me of those in prison, serving in the mission field, homebound due to sickness and those living in areas with few Christians. He also reminded me that we are in the world, purposely scattered among the people so we can be a witness for Christ.
Christian community is a foretaste of the gathering of God?s people that will occur at the end of the age. It is one of those mysterious aspects of the Christian life that are part of the realm of the ?now but not yet?.
Since my Christian experience has been so focused on community and relationship, I have been tempted to think that is the true litmus test of a valid Christian experience. But Bonhoeffer helped me see Paul sitting in prison anxiously awaiting a visit from Timothy. He got me to look at John alone on the isle of Patmos, experiencing his Christian fellowship by seeing a vision of 7 churches.
I started to see the ultimate fulfillment of Christian Community described in Hebrews 12:22-24:
?But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.?
Creating an atmosphere for authentic Christian community is certainly a blessed endeavor that should be encouraged. However, there are times and seasons in a believer?s life where it might be impossible to experience true Christian relationships on a consistent basis. In those seasons, the visit of a brother in the Lord is received as being the very physical presence of Christ himself, who is present in the body of believers. If such blessing comes from a visit of a single believer to one who is lonely, how incredibly blessed are those that find themselves experiencing true Christian community on a daily basis. Let us not take those seasons of life for granted, and expect that such blessing will always be our lot.
Christian community and fellowship experienced in this life, is the gracious foretaste of that beautiful fellowship we are to share in the ages to come. Those precious times when we experience it are gifts to us in God?s providence. Let us be thankful for those times, and appreciate them?. For truly there will be seasons in our lives when we will feel isolated from deep Christian fellowship and will have to find it by looking to what awaits us in the ages to come, when we gather on Mount Zion?. With the spirits of just men and women made perfect??