Bonhoeffer-Banner-1From a man who died alone and yet not alone:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.

He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and given an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refused to be alone you are rejecting God’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. . . . I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer, they [the fellowship] suffer with me” (Luther).

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 77 [italics and ellipses original].

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9 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer: Beware of Community, Beware of Being Alone”

  1. Joey E says:

    Very powerful.

  2. anaquaduck says:

    no man an island.

  3. Tim says:

    “If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.”
    When believers gather for not one second of “spur one another on to love and good works”, but devote 30 – 45 minutes to one-way communication and complete silence, they have rejected the call of Jesus Christ to “fellowship of the brethren. We are called and designed to participate. “Speaking to one another..” is the first designation of what it means to be “filled with the Spirit”.

    1. anaquaduck says:

      I couldn’t count the number of times God has ministered to my heart as I sit quietly & listen(to God’s Word). Some have been given the task of teaching & are held accountable. I really don’t think its as simple as you seem to be making it,there is also opportunity to talk about a sermon after church.

      I was at a brethren church for a time & they had a time of open speaking that was often edifying but you had to be there to appreciate it.

      1. Tim says:

        God is aftoer so much more than “ministering to your heart” when the saints gather. Heb. 10:24,25 says how simple it is. Col. 3:16 adds more. Eph. 5:19 adds more. It’s all “one another”. It does require 24/7 church life preparing your offering to build up the saints. Your spiritual life will grow so much more as you spend time in God’s Word all week to share some with the saints versus walking in the door with nothing to offer and expecting a professional to do all the speaking on your behalf. This is a second hand faith where you only go to the word through someone else. Go straight to the Word and pass it on to the saints. You are a “royal priesthood… that you may proclaim the glories of Him who called you…”, not outsource it all every worship gathering of your life. This is what God specifically asks for. It’s not my cool idea.

        1. Tim says:

          All believers are “held accountable” for everything. All believers are given the task of teaching. Col. 3:16; Matt. 28:19,20. The gift of teaching is not designed to dominate the teaching but to help others grow to teach. Jesus tells us the “teacher” is to “fully train” his students to “be like him” (Luke 6:40) We are like the teacher when we can do what he does. (Obviously the form of teaching in normal church is not designed to accomplish this goal.) Just like the gift of giving is not so that only those so gifted can dominate the giving but so they can help every one learn to give wisely and cheerfully.

        2. anaquaduck says:

          A lot of sermons I hear tell me to spend time in the Word…nothing second hand about it unless you consider your own sharing in the same vein.Teachers have an added accountability as they are instructed to lead. Jam 3:1

          Church is a place where you can be enabled to grow in grace & knowledge…Worship, Bible study, fellowship etc.. Eph 4:11.

  4. The key is in the balance. We need to be able to be alone in that we need to have godly character that acts in solitude as it does in community. But we need community as we are mutually submitted to each other for the correction of flaws in our character that are not aligned with Christ.

    And so we need to question our character when alone so that we can use those traits that are godly and reject those traits that are not. Likewise, we need to use godly traits to test the spirits of our community so that we are not wrongly corrected. Our standard, as always, is that which is found in Scripture as revealed by the Holy Spirit.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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