Book Review on Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reviewed By Krista Musiime
I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree and one of the words I heard a lot while there was “community.” I thought I knew what community was all about, but it wasn’t until I read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that my eyes were opened to the true meaning of Christian community and what Scripture says about it.
Throughout this book, Bonhoeffer explores different aspects and habits of Christian community. First, Bonhoeffer describes Christian community as “a community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.” He goes on to explain that believers gather together in fellowship because of Jesus Christ. No true Christian community can exist without Christ being the center of it. Therefore, Jesus is the only one who can hold Christian community together. At times, it is easy to think a variety of things are what hold us together in community—age, same phase of life, similar interests, etc. And while these things might play a role in bringing people together, the community will fall apart if Christ is not at the center. Like Bonhoeffer said, “We are bound together by faith, not by experience.”
Bonhoeffer goes on to talk about three important elements of worship that should be included in Christian community: Scripture reading, song, and prayer. He recommends Scripture reading from both Old and New Testaments to form a strong Biblical foundation and to be reminded of God’s attributes. Worship in song is a way of giving praise to God as one community in unison. Lastly, it is important for a community of believers to spend some time in prayer for the group as a whole.
Bonhoeffer also talks about the importance of confession and communion among community. Confession to one another breaks through to community. It allows a fellow brother or sister in Christ to bear the sin of one another. Confession brings humility and it displays and reminds us of the forgiveness of sins and grace found in Jesus Christ. According to Bonhoeffer, Christian fellowship reaches its fulfilment in the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper. “As the members of the congregation are united in body and blood at the table of the Lord so they will be together in eternity.”
While it is good to be in Christian community, Bonhoeffer reminds the readers of the importance of solitude. Community is meant to encourage Christians in their personal relationship with the Lord, to spend some time alone in silence reading Scripture, meditating on it, and praying to the Lord. Community and solitude go hand-in-hand. “One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”
Are you a member of a community group or small group? What are some practices or habits of your group that encourage true community? If you are not in a small group, I would highly encourage you to join one. We need true community!
Meet the author!
Krista Musiime lived in Uganda for more than half her life before moving to the States. She works as an engineer and during the weekends enjoys being a part of the children's ministry at Council Road Baptist Church. Krista is a lover of the outdoors, hot beverages, dancing and spending time with family and friends.