Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bonhoeffer and the Under-Estimated Human Example

Earlier this week, I reached mentally for the source of a passage I’d recently read on the importance of example. I could not remember where the bit of writing came from, but tonight I stumbled across it in a seminary class forum. Of course, the passage came from Bonhoeffer.

The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating [as in the past], but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others. In particular, our own church will have to take the field against hubris, power-worship, envy, and humbug, as the roots of all evil. It will have to speak of moderation, purity, trust, loyalty, constancy, patience, discipline, humility, contentment, and modesty.* It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origins in the humility of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teachings); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power. (I hope to take up later this subject of ‘example’ and its place in the New Testament; it is something that we have almost entirely forgotten.) Further… revision of Christian apologetics; reform of the training for the ministry and the pattern of clerical life. (Letters and Papers from Prison, 382-3)