Christian community (the Church) can often disappoint. The ideal of Christian community often gets in way of real thing. Yesterday, I shared how Bonhoeffer reveals this in Life Together. Imagine if you brought your ideal of womanhood to bear on your relationship with your wife. How do you think romance would go? Not a good foundation to build satisfactory relationship.
Listen to Bonhoeffer again: He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter. -Bonhoeffer, Life Together, page 27.
What can often happen – I said often, not always – is that ‘community’ becomes the basis for Christian community. This is a little like saying sex is the basis for marriage. Sex is to be enjoyed and celebrated but it makes a lousy foundation. Likewise, ‘relationships’ and other fruit of ‘community’ are to be enjoyed and celebrated. But community is not the end in itself. Tangible enjoyment of each other is the fruit which comes from the vine. So then, what is true basis for Christian community? According to Bonhoeffer it’s this:
Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this ‘alien righteousness’. All we can say, therefore, is: the community of Christians springs solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of justification of man through faith alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another. Bonhoeffer, Life Together, page 23.
The community doesn’t exist by itself. The community doesn’t exist for itself. It exists because of the message. That is, for a reason outside of itself.