Diedrich Bonhoeffer and Church Unity

Dietrich BonhoefferAs we study Acts 15 and the question of what unifies us as a Christian church, here are some thoughts on the matter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, taken from Ethics [Fortress, 2005], p. 63-64.

When God in Jesus Christ claims space in the world – even space in a stable because ‘there was no other place in the inn’ – God embraces the whole reality of the world in this narrow space and reveals its ultimate foundation. So also the church of Jesus Christ is the place – that is, the space – in the world where the reign of Jesus Christ over the whole world is to be demonstrated and proclaimed. This space of the church does not, therefore, exist just for itself, but its existence is already always something that reaches far beyond it…. The space of the church is not there in order to fight with the world for a piece of its territory, but precisely to testify to the world that it is still the world, namely, the world that is loved and reconciled by God. It is not true that the church intends to or must spread its space out over the space of the world. It desires no more space than its needs to serve the world with its witness to Jesus Christ and to the world’s reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.

In many ways, the event at the Jerusalem council highlights just this reality. The uncircumcised are loved and reconciled by God. The Church has no need to resist the other or to assimilate the other through the rituals/law of old. Rather, in this new space, the open space, the church is to bear “witness to Jesus Christ and to the world’s reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.”

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