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An important message for our times: The lasting legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together”

Steve Yount, a senior fellow with the Denison Forum, is a former newspaper editor and public-relations executive working with Christian ministries.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his book Life Together by quoting Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Bonhoeffer wrote the book in the 1930s about his experience leading an underground seminary in Nazi Germany. 

With American Christians divided along political lines in the aftermath of a contentious presidential election, Life Together has an important message for our times.

Bonhoeffer wrote about many of the building blocks of Christian community, including prayer, singing, confession, ministry and fellowship. 

When fellowship is broken, Bonhoeffer made clear that Christians should immediately seek reconciliation to establish it anew.

He extolled the virtues of humility when we have differences with our neighbors: “What does it matter if our own plans are frustrated? Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way?”

In his eyes, living in community with other Christians was a divine gift, not to be taken for granted. He noted that Jesus was surrounded by enemies, and that many Christians “remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God’s will.”

Bonhoeffer left unsaid his personal plight. The Gestapo closed the seminary two years after it opened, and his role in the German resistance led to his imprisonment and eventual execution near the end of World War II.

Seventy-five years after his death, Life Together remains a classic.

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