Community – the Essential Ingredient

The essential ingredient to what?

Discipleship of course.

The opening paragraphs of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1) In the following we shall consider a number of directions and precepts that the Scriptures provide us for our life together under the Word.
It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of his foes. There is his commission, his work.
“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?” (Luther)

We become like Him when we are in community with those who are seriously engaged with following Him. Without one another we cannot become like Him. Everything in our history since the beginning of the Church tells us this. Jesus formed a band of 12 who did life together for three years (Mark 3:13-14). He told Peter to tend His sheep, His flock (John 21:15-17). That would be a community. When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He began this way: “Pray in this way,  ‘Our Father . . .'” He didn’t begin with My Father.” He began with “Our Father.”

The prayer he instructed them to pray, the model that He gave was not individual, it was communal. He encouraged them to be in communion with one another when they approached the throne of God. 

Does it mean that we shouldn’t pray alone? No. Not at all. 

But we pray best when we pray with others. We pray best when we are in community with other fellow suffers. When we cry together, when we rejoice together and play, and give thanks together, and prepare meals together, and struggle together, and smile at one another’s children, and grieve together over our losses and fears, our prayers become fulsome and compassionate. They become heart-felt and fervent. And we can pray with the words our Savior gave us,

“Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be Your name,
Thy Kingdom come,
They will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”                                                              Matthew 6:7-13

Which brings me back to Bonhoeffer and the first two paragraphs of LIFE TOGETHER and the quote from Luther. One of the reasons that Jesus wants us to be in community is that His discipleship, means doing battle in the world; it means living among the enemies of the Cross. It means sacrificing for them, loving them even when it is hard, taking the mocking and jeering and ridicule that might come our way and praying to our Father, together, that “His will would be done on earth as it is heaven.”

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