Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 12


The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. Once again, Jesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink for that passion in our own lives? [...] The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil.

Recently, Bonhoeffer's chapters have tackled an issue or a sin. I feel like I am reading a daily devotional book, a word of wisdom for everyday concerning a topic that everyone deals with. This chapter on revenge was very interesting... At the start of the book there was a memoir of Bonhoeffer's life which talked about his plans to kill Hitler and a host of other things he had done in his lifetime.

At the start of this chapter, using Matthew 5:38-42 as a basis, Bonhoeffer is adamant that one must repel evil through non-violence. That when someone steals your cloak you must also give him your tunic. To stop evil in it's tracks by not reacting to it... However, it was Bonhoeffer who was executed for attempting to kill Hitler. I wish that he would have lived on through the war and could have reconciled his words in this chapter with his real life actions. I am not condemning him for attempting to take out Hitler, I would just like to know where he drew the line in regards to "revenge."

Your thoughts?

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 11


Complete truthfulness is only possible where sin has been uncovered, and forgiven by Jesus. Only those who are in a state of truthfulness through the confession of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told. The truthfulness which Jesus demands from his followers is the self-abnegation which does not hide sin. Nothing is then hidden, everything is brought forth to the light of day.

In this chapter on truthfulness Bonhoeffer takes a look at Jesus' words in Matthew 5:33-37. This passage deals with the idea of oaths/promises. Bonhoeffer cleverly stated that the only reason oaths exist is because of the possibility of telling a lie. He then goes on to say that oaths would not, and ultimately should not, be necessary for someone who tells nothing but the truth, therefore encouraging both you and I to abstain from telling lies as they do not edify anyone. The most powerful quote from this passage falls in verse 37 where Jesus instructs those around Him to let there "yes" be "yes" and their "no" be "no."

Consider this a personal challenge. First of all, try to think of a time where you have lied and it has had no negative consequences. Secondly, try to abstain from lying, try to only utter the truth. This includes exaggerations and embellishment.

I am currently trying this... And it is way harder than you may think... Much easier said than done.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 10


Adherence to Jesus allows no free rein to desire unless it be accompanied by love. To follow Jesus means self-renunciation and absolute adherence to him, and therefore a will dominated by lust can never be allowed to do what it likes.

Yeah, you guessed it... This chapter deals with lust.

In this chapter Bonhoeffer makes a biblically supported argument against sexual immorality. I would consider the message of xxxchurch to be some sort of contemporary to what Bonhoeffer (and many other prominent theologians of the past) was (were) saying.

The idea of sexual purity is not a very popular one. In the university setting in which I find myself, it is not uncommon to come to class on a Monday morning and to hear someone boast of their sexual accomplishments that took place over the weekend. Man, we were made for so much more than to screw around on weekends and slave through our weeks...

I find Romans 6:11-14 particularly powerful when tackling the issue of sin...

"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."

To rid ourselves of sin is the key to closeness with the Lord. This is something that we have to understand before we start to question why we can't hear from God.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 9

The Brother

Every idle word which we think so little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbour, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and distort. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing other to despise him, With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence.

I could have used a million different pull quotes from this chapter, it was seriously the best chapter yet, totally making up for my lack of understanding in Chapter 8.

So, upon reading The Brother I was subjected to a rude awakening... This chapter, as you may have already pieced together, talks about your "brothers." In other words, your relationships with others. The chapter centralizes around Matthew 5:21-26 and focuses on the main topics of forgiveness and relationships.

I consciously do my best to keep from gossip or any form of slander as I learned from a young age that talking behind someones back never does anyone any good. However, there are times, admittedly, where I say things I should not. I am 100% confident that I am not alone in this boat, I am sure each and every reader has said something (either directly to an individual or behind someone's back) that they have regretted saying. It was an simply an awakening that I need to be more careful of what I say.

On another note, I took The Cost of Discipleship with me to school today as I figured that I may have a moment or two to dive back into Chapter 8 and attempt to figure out some of the deep theology that Bonhoeffer was referring to... I am pleased to say that my wave of enlightenment hit me when I was waiting to get my haircut... I see Chapter 8 in a different light, with a clearer understanding of the topics mentioned. All it took was reading it over again, slowly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 8

The Righteousness of Christ

Again, it is not enough to teach the law of Christ, it must be done, otherwise it is no better than the old law.

If you have read this book before you know that Chapter 8 is the most dense chapter to this point in the book. I do not profess to be an Old Testament scholar (nor a New Testament scholar for that matter), however I would hazard to guess that even one of scholarly standing would struggle here with Bonhoeffer. The majority of the teaching revolves around the Law of the Old Testament and the new Law that Jesus brought. However, it also talks about keeping alive some of the traditions of the old Law. Regardless of my initial thoughts, this is a chapter that I must revisit to fully understand the content.

On a somewhat related note, have you ever read Francis Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto? I read it in Grade 11 and can remember reading each page AT LEAST 2 times before turning it. Some content needs to be deeply explored to be adequately understood.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 7

The Visible Community

The followers are a visible community; their discipleship visible in action which lifts them out of the world - otherwise it would not be discipleship. And of course the following is a visible to the world as a light in the darkness or a mountain rising from a plain.

To be a follower of Jesus strikes me as a pretty exciting thing. To search after the one who healed the blind, raised people from the dead and was even resurrected himself is jaw dropping and awe inspiring.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship - Chapter 6

So you probably just looked at the title and are now thinking; "Chapter 6?! Don't books start at chapter 1?" You would be correct, most books do in fact start at chapter one and that includes The Cost of Discipleship, however, I am currently on Chapter 7 and therefore will start with thoughts on Chapter 6. If I get around to blogging about another book, I will be sure to start from Chapter 1.

Chapter 6 - The Beatitudes

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy...
As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation and sin of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves. They will be found consorting with publicans and sinners, careless of the shame they incur thereby. In order that they may be merciful they cast away their most priceless treasure of human life, the personal dignity and honour. For the only honour and dignity they know is their Lord's own mercy, to which alone they owe their very lives.
(Excerpt from the Chapter)

As made apparent by the subheading in this small portion of the chapter, Bonhoeffer is talking about mercy. He is talking about what it means to take up the cross, to take up the cause of Jesus Christ and to live a life full of mercy. This particular passage stood out to me because I believe that this is how a follower of Christ should be living out their life. This definition of a merciful being is truly beautiful, however, it is more easily said than acted upon.

As I peer through Bonhoeffer's words I struggle to apply them to my life, while beautiful in thought, the reality is seemingly unrealistic. I find that I have to start with 'baby steps', if you will. After verifying Bonhoeffer's words through scripture I wake up the next morning and try to shape my life a little differently first thing in the morning.

Slowly, but surely, I attempt to become a man who would: "...cast away the most priceless treasure of human life, personal dignity and honour."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

A requirement of my internship with Soul Sanctuary is to read and study a certain number of books. While I have hundreds of books to read for my regular university classes during the school year, I figured I would put off reading these books until April and then read them all while my school reading load is much lighter. However, I have started reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship each night before bed and I have been loving it.

Each night between 10.30-11.30pm I grab a cup o' tea and relax in my bed, reading Bonhoeffer and then my Bible. It is a beautiful routine and it is also the part of my day that I look forward to the most.

Whilst reading Bonhoeffer I discovered that the knowledge he shares is too brilliant to keep to myself. Therefore, each night before I start my reading routine I plan on sharing a snip bit of knowledge that I have learnt the night before. This will start as of tomorrow night, so be sure to keep checking back! If all goes well, I'll continue to do this with the other books that I will be reading.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Letter From Shane Claiborne

This is an article that I happened to stumble upon yesterday, this dude has a lot to say, but stay with it. Completely worth the read.

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn's Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn't quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don't know Jesus.

Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, "God is not a monster." Maybe next time I will.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, "I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ." A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.

Now for the good news.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our "Gospel" is the message that Jesus came "not [for] the healthy... but the sick." And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.

One of Jesus' most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan... you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I'm sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine... but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.

After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: "The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you." And we wonder what got him killed?

I have a friend in the UK who talks about "dirty theology" — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, "Nothing good could come." It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society's rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you." If those of us who believe in God do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world... well, we should at least pray that it is.

Your brother,


Original Source: http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209#ixzz1iazxePMP