Sinners Together


Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes of the faith. Born into a thriving Germany at the height of its cultural, intellectual and economic influence, Bonhoeffer and his family watched their nation pitched into warfare and decline during World War I. Then they watched in terror as the country they loved was overrun by Nazism. Bonhoeffer found himself leading a resistance called the Confessing Church, an underground seminary to counter the Nazi influence over the state church. He was executed at age 39, just days before his camp was liberated by the U.S. Army. If you’ve never looked into the life of this man, Eric Metaxas’ biography would be a great summer read: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

In the middle of all this intense pressure, Bonhoeffer found the gift of Christian community. He wrote a treatise for the seminary community called Life Together. Bonhoeffer knew there was no way to stand faithfully with Christ against the incessant press of a godless culture without learning to stand in community. “Life together is again being understood by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary aspect, the ‘roses and lilies’ of the Christian life.”

So, your guest blogger today is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The following passage is too good to mess with at all. The real gift is not to be pious together, but to be sinners together:

"'Confess your sins to one another' (James 5:16). Those who remain alone with their evil are left utterly alone. It is possible that Christians may remain lonely in spite of daily worship together, prayer together, and all their community through service--that final breakthrough to community does not occur precisely because they enjoy community with one another as pious believers, but not with one another as those lacking piety, as sinners. For the pious community permits no one to be a sinner. Hence all have to conceal their sins from themselves and from the community. We are not allowed to be sinners. Many Christians would be unimaginably horrified if a real sinner were suddenly to turn up among the pious. So we remain alone with our sin, trapped in lies and hypocrisy, for we are in fact sinners.

However, the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to comprehend, confronts us with the truth. It says to us, you are a sinner, a great, unholy sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to your God who loves you. For God wants you as you are, not desiring anything from you--a sacrifice, a good deed--but rather desiring you alone. 'My child, give me your heart' (Prov 23:26). God has come to you to make the sinner blessed. Rejoice! This message is liberation through truth. You cannot hide from God. The mask you wear in the presence of other people won't get you anywhere in the presence of God. God wants to see you as you are, wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and to other Christians as if you were without sin. You are allowed to be a sinner. Thank God for that; God loves the sinner but hates the sin."