After he was hanged by the Gestapo in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings became a treasured testimony for Christians around the world. None has blessed me more than his book, Life Together, in which he shares his experience of Christian community during Hitler’s reign. His focus is on God’s plan for the church to be life together in Christ. Some-one has called Life Together “bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.” It is that and much more.
Our Creator has hardwired us for dependency upon Christ and the unique fellowship of believers surrendered to our Savior. There is no option for “Lone Ranger” discipleship. The word “together” is paramount. The fullness of joy in Christ is found in “life together” with other followers of Christ.
The word “together” came alive for me when our children were growing up. One day my youngest son, Steve, then eight years old, asked if he could accompany me to the hospital as I made pastoral calls on patients. As we were walking to the hospital nearby our home, I took his hand as we crossed a street. He looked up at me and melted my heart with these words: “We like being together, don’t we Dad?”
Those words remain etched in my memory bank. They symbolize for me what I think Bonhoeffer meant by “life together.” There are no words adequate to describe the joy that filled my heart as my young son affirmed the joy he felt in being “together” with me.
To me, this all starts with God himself. Having created us, He was unable to ignore the plight we were in because of our sins. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to deliver us from our sins. He wanted fellowship with us, even if that required the sacrificial death of Jesus. He raised Jesus from the dead so we could live “life together” with Christ and one another. Nothing else can give us the joy our hearts crave – to know God and have the assurance of “life together” with Him forever.
Look at the earthly ministry of Jesus. He could not fulfill the will of His Father without living “life together” with his disciples, which included women and men. Clearly Jesus needed the fellowship he shared with his apostles. He walked, talked and prayed with them for three years. In the garden, praying about the crucifixion He knew was coming, he wanted his disciples with him.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were meeting secretly out of fear for their lives. Thomas was not there; so a week later, Jesus went back, evidently out of love for doubting Thomas. One person mattered to Jesus! Dare I say it? Jesus liked being with Thomas! He was not satisfied until the fellowship included his friend Thomas.
In recent days “life together” for me has been meeting twice a month to pray with several men in my home. We enjoy a unique and enriching fellowship with each other and with Jesus, for He said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Every time we meet, I feel like saying, “My brothers, we like being together, don’t we?”
As I near the end of my earthly journey, I often wonder what heaven will be like. But I am not anxious for answers. Jesus will be there, and that will be enough for me. In the meantime, I want to spend the rest of my days walking daily with Jesus, holding His hand and hearing him say, “Walter, I like being with you.” And on the day or my departure, I want so much to hear my Lord say, “Walter, I like being with you. Come on, let’s go in; my Father is waiting inside to welcome you home.”
Real life, authentic life, is being together with Jesus – here and yonder, where life together at its best continues forever! The opportunity to share in this fellowship is available to anyone who will, on their knees, ask forgiveness for their sins, and say what Thomas said when he met the resurrected Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” That’s when “life together,” in Christ, begins – and it never ends!