How are we doing?

"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity." Psalm 133:1

Looking at Life Together, a manual intended for an intentional community, as helpful for establishing a rule of life means plenty of adjustments. But Bonhoeffer's starting point, Community, is not one of them. I don’t know when you can pinpoint Christianity becoming more of a personal pursuit but regardless of where it started it still persists today. If your like me you've often tried to undertake the personal holiness project yourself. You'll get a bible reading plan, buy a book on the spiritual disciplines, set-up a fasting calendar, all by yourself and buckle down on this project of personal holiness. It's often failed for me and maybe you've managed to stick with it but it's an isolating act. Not only that it can separate from the body of believers into our own holy club.

I think the primary question at this point in the Christian life is, 'How am I doing?'.  In a recent Mars Hill Audio Journal (which I would put as mandatory listening for V&B friends) Ken Myers interviews the theologian Phillip Tuner on social ethics and the church. It contains some great gems on having a healthy understanding of the world.

Turner: Well I try to say that to focus on the common life of the church as a form of witness to the purposes and nature of God cannot eliminate the notion that I have to live in that way. And that’s the question of sanctification. But it doesn’t become the overriding concern.… How am I doing? The overriding concern is my community in a healthy situation, am I contributing what I need to, am I listening to what it has to tell me. I transfer as it were the focus to that common life and it’s within that common life I learn a way of life. And take it on, take on a second nature. I worry about once you begin to say, how am I doing, am I getting more and more holy all sorts of things begin to go wrong. But if you say what are my relationships like, how am I contributing, what’s happening, why am in this conflict, how do I get out of this conflict. That changes the location of ones struggle to become Christ-like.
Myers: At least we should be asking how are we doing? Not just how am I doing.
Turner: Yeah. That’s the first question, How are we doing. Exactly. Are we’re not doing too well.

So Bonhoeffer starts us with this call to community. He says, "It means, first, that a Christian needs others for the sake of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that from eternity we have been chose in Jesus Christ, accepted in time, and united for eternity." For him the Christian life is community, through and through, top to bottom. As we walk through this first step in Life Together to find a rule of life we'll see how deep this runs for Bonhoeffer.

Matthew SheddenComment