|We belong to
one another through and in Jesus Christ
community means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There
is no Christian community that is more than this, and none that is less
than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily community
of many years, Christian community is solely this. We belong to one another
only through and in Jesus Christ.
does that mean? 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 chosen in Jesus Christ, accepted in time, and united for eternity.
Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance,
their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone…
death and life of Christians are not situated in a self-contained isolation.
Rather, Christians encounter both death and life only in the Word that
comes to them from the outside, in God’s Word to them…
We live entirely
by the truth of God's Word
live entirely by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If they are asked
“where is your salvation, your blessedness, your righteousness?,” they
can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in
Jesus Christ that grants them salvation, blessedness, and righteousness.
They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and
thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again.11
We need other
Christians who speak God's Word to us
people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God
has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony
of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians
need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again
and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by
their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves
out of the truth.
need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of
salvation. They need them solely for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Christ
in their own hearts is weaker than the Christ in the word of other Christians.
Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are
sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian
community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation.
As such, God allows Christians to come together and grants them community.
Excel in love
more and more
concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone
write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.…
But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9f.).
God’s own undertaking to teach such love. All that human beings can add
is to remember this divine instruction and the exhortation to excel in
it more and more. When God had mercy on us, when God revealed Jesus Christ
to us as our brother, when God won our hearts by God’s own love, our instruction
in Christian love began at the same time.
God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with one another. When
we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to
forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others.
more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our
love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love.
Thus God taught us to encounter one another as God has encountered us in
Christ. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
image of a perfect community
innumerable occasions a whole Christian community has been shattered because
it has lived on the basis of a wishful image… A great disillusionment with
others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves,
is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding
of genuine Christian community. By sheer grace God will not permit us to
live in a dream world even for a few weeks and to abandon ourselves to
those blissful experiences and exalted moods that sweep over us like a
wave of rapture. For God is not a God of emotionalism, but the God of truth.
who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community
itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their
personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.
Thank God for
the gift of common life with other Cristians
God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God
has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before
we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together
with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who
thank God for what God has done for us. We thank God for giving us other
Christians who live by God’s call, forgiveness, and promise. We do not
complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what
God does give us daily...
an outright gift for which we have no claim
the Christian’s sanctification, Christian community is a gift of God to
which we have no claim. Only God knows the real condition of either our
community or our sanctification. What may appear weak and insignificant
to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as Christians should not be
constantly feeling the pulse of their spiritual life, so too the Christian
community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking
its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to
us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow
from day to day as God pleases.
Not an ideal but
a reality created by God in Christ
community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created
by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn
to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community
is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about
our community and pray and hope for it.
from Life Together, originally published in German by Christian
Kaiser Verlag, Munich 1939. English translation by Donald Bloesch ©
Augsburg Fortress 1996.]