The two sides

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the following. 

 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 give an account to God. You cannot escape yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called….

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 of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.



3 thoughts on “The two sides

  1. Did you include your name anywhere on this site? I couldn’t find it. I see abmo listed on the posts. Is that your name? Anyway, I really like the thoughts by Bonhoeffer. My experience has been that one cannot experience truly being alone, and therefore experience true being, apart from community. Only community confronts us with that quintessential hunger for communion that all of our arranging and striving cannot fill.

    It is in community that I am confronted with my fleshly desire to control. To somehow find my place; to identify and subscribe to whatever codes of relating seem to govern relationship. In community I am forced to face how quickly I would gladly trade freedom; both mine and others, to satisfy the deep forces within me that long for value, intimacy, acceptance, and connection. Trade my inheritance for a bowl of pottage, so to speak. I am confronted with a darker nature within that alternately hates self for failing to gain what is desired, and hates others (including God)for failing to grant it. In a word community confronts me with both my hunger and my sin and the sobering reality that I have power over neither. Community confronts me with the reality of my deep bondage.

    Conversely it is also community that confronts me with the troubling contradiction that I cannot receive or give this love I so desperately crave except from freedom. I cannot receive deep acceptance for being who I am not, nor can I authentically love another when all my giving is really meant for me. To both give and receive love I must cease striving to fill my own needs and take the tremendous risk of authenticity. And so I find this paradox. Community also confronts me with my freedom.

    From this exquisite predicament I am taught of my deep need for God. The need for mercy more than my need for power. The need for grace more than my need for perfection. I am taught, only in community, of my deep hunger and desperate need for what God alone can provide. And it is only in the community of believers that I hear of the old, old, truths that such desires were created for Him and He longs to fill them in me. In a word community glorifies God – revealing through our needs and hunger the nature of what it is we truly desire…the nature of Who it is we really need and desire.

  2. Hey Paul K,

    abmo is a nickname and is a combination of Abraham and Moses.

    I guess it will be correct in saying that community is important to you? I will argue however, that being alone is just as important. Who are you when nobody is around? If you had to live in the South Pole for a year, what would confront you?

    Most of the people in the Bible had times when they were utterly alone. God was there however and He was their worst nightmare because He was the confronter. Community is not the beginning and the end. Jesus is. Out of Jesus will flow community with all it’s challenges and blessings that you’ve written about.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Abmo, it’s a good thing your nickname wasn’t a combination of Elijah and Moses otherwise we may have had to call you elmo! 🙂

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m not saying that community is more important only that it is of equal importance. Like sound and silence in balance make music. Without balance you simply have nothing or noise.

    The question “Who are you when nobody is around?” takes meaning only as we have some idea of who we are when somebody is around. Distinction is a product of comparison.

    “If you had to live in the South Pole for a year, what would confront you?” In solitude I have been confronted with every scrambling inclination of my flesh to fill, distract, numb, or otherwise save myself from the terror of being. In silence God weens me from my idolatry and penchant to flee or trade away the unrelenting terror that is my freedom. I think the desert fathers called it a struggle with “scruples”. In solitude I have learned to rest in His finished work.

    Solitude is absolutely essential to the spiritual journey. I do believe that just like Abraham, Moses, Elihja, and all the other prophets God must call us out of community into the desert where, like you have noted, we are confronted not only with God but with ourselves. It is in the desert that I have learned dependence on Him. But I also believe that, just as all the prophets before mentioned, God calls us back into community once we have met with Him in solitude.

    I see community as the framework God uses to prepare our hearts for the desert of solitude.

    I enjoy the conversation, thanks.

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