On Being the Body: wish dreams shattered by grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in Life Together that Christians often develop set ideas of what being the body– living the Jesus-life together– ought to be.  He calls them “wish dreams.”  Then he makes a statement that challenges, convicts, and comforts me every time I read it:

But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.

He explains:

Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.  By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.

Sometimes, in the simplicity of my humanity, I wish He would.  It would seem so lovely to live in a dream world, surrounded by perfect people and walking in perfection myself.  And yet, I am a broken person, surrounded by other broken people, operating in a broken system…by grace.  Sheer grace.

It is grace alone that given our brokenness, we can experience the richness of fellowship with the Spirit of God, that we can know the sweetness of hearts drawn together supernaturally, and that we can delight in the presence of God in the midst of two or three.  It is grace alone that such safety can exist that correction is healthy and not punitive, and grace alone that trust, submission, and service can be lived out even in the messiness of life.

So the challenge for me is to see the grace and not just the brokenness.  If I refuse the needed grace and simply get frustrated with the brokenness, I miss out on the beauty of the body, made whole in Jesus.  If I refuse the body and hang on to my own wish dreams of what it could be, I miss out on the help of the body and unintentionally hurt it.

Bonhoeffer notes,

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Jesus, teach me to love what is more than what I want, as You did.


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