A Reminder from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By: Brian Borgman

This past Sunday I preached at Peninsula Bible Church in Port Angeles, WA for their new building dedication. I’ve never been the guest speaker for a building dedication, so I prayerfully considered what would be appropriate. I ended up preaching 2 Cor. 4:3-7 and the real Treasure of the Church. I returned to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. As I was thinking about Bonhoeffer this morning, I thought his words would a good reminder to us at Grace Community Church.

“Every human wish-dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a church more than the Christian church itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.”

Brothers and sisters, how we must be on guard against our own wish-dreams of what the church ought to be. The church isn’t about my preferences, my agenda, my likes or dislikes. These only make me a critic of the church, who stands in judgment over it.The church is about God’s truth, God’s people, the gospel, fellowshipping with sinners who have been saved by grace.

We live in community with one another for a reason. As Bonhoeffer reminds us later, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” To be alone, to be withdrawn from the body because we have had our wish-dreams challenged or smashed, is to end up alone in our sin. This is hard for us to understand in our individualized culture, but it is exactly what the corporate nature of the body is about. When we are together, we are together in Him, in His gospel. We can minister to each other and love each other as sinners.

So cherish the church. Love the church, not just the idea of the church, but actually the church, with all the clay pots. If we cherish the church, we will crucify our wish-dreams and love people as they are and the church for what it is.

From one clay pot to other clay pots,
Rejoicing in the Treasure,
Pastor Brian

3 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Bonhoeffer's statement begs questions and is also extremely convicting.

    – Convicting for obvious reasons – may God grant me with the self-control & wisdom necessary to see & mortify my "wish-dreams".

    – Questions… What do you think Bonhoeffer meant by "wish dreams"?
    * I suspect he does not mean that we should not judge (or evaluate) the Christian Community/Local Church according to standards/models/doctrines set forth in scripture. This would not make any sense… That means he must apply this term to our opinions about things that are not necessarily based on scripture – right?… but what might this include?
    * What about my opinions about Hymns vs. Praise Songs; Coffee Carts in the foyer or not; Wednesday night Bible Study or not; Modern Dance accompaniment during worship or not; opinions about unruly children being in the sanctuary during the sermons or not; modest clothing or not; x ministries that cause people to scratch their chins or not, etc… I suppose many of these examples (and others like them) are linked to a biblical standards, either directly or remotely, and the difference between the two has everything to do with Bonhoeffer's definition of "wish dream".
    * I was also thinking that it may have something to do with things that distract us from worship and/or receiving the preaching of the word, or loving our brothers & neighbors,… but then, what about those people that seem to get distracted by everything compared to those that can paint everything away, remain focused, and continue to worship & show love regardless of circumstances?
    * Might this wish dream term have something to do with anything that I treasure in this world; anything that takes my eyes off Jesus; and anything that prevents me from living out the first & second great commandments? Luke 14: 26 comes to mind…

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    In regards to the first comment about "wish dreams"? . I was thinking of what did or does Bonhoeffer mean by that myself. I read your comment and would have to agree with you. Thanks.

  3. Brian Borgman
    Brian Borgman says:

    Obviously Bonhoeffer doesn't mean biblical standards are wish dreams. He is talking about the expectation we have of others and thus of the church. When we expect the church to be "the fellowship of the pious" we have a wish dream. When we expect the church to trumpet my cause, then I have a wish dream. If I am put off because there are "icky" people in my church, then I have a wish-dream. Wish-dreamers forget that the church is built on the Gospel of the Cross and that Gospel is for sinners only, people who really know themselves to be sinners. WIsh-dreamers see themselves as having their act together because they (fill in the blank) and expect the church to follow suit. Wish-dreamers see themselves as sinners only in their creed, but not in reality. When we see ourselves as desperate sinners in need of the grace of Christ every second it changes the way we look at others, what we expect of others and what we want the church to be.

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