Excerpt from Life Together

In con­fes­sion the break-through to com­mu­ni­ty takes place. Sin demands to have a man by him­self. It with­draws him from the com­mu­ni­ty. The more iso­lat­ed a per­son is, the more destruc­tive will be the pow­er of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more dis­as­trous is his iso­la­tion. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the dark­ness of the unex­pressed it poi­sons the whole being of a per­son. This can hap­pen even in the midst of a pious com­mu­ni­ty. In con­fes­sion the light of the Gospel breaks into the dark­ness and seclu­sion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unex­pressed must be open­ly spo­ken and acknowl­edged. All that is secret and hid­den is made man­i­fest. It is a hard strug­gle until the sin is open­ly admit­ted. But God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Ps. 107:16).

Since the con­fes­sion of sin is made in the pres­ence of a Chris­t­ian broth­er, the last strong­hold of self-jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is aban­doned. The sin­ner sur­ren­ders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the for­give­ness of all his sin in the fel­low­ship of Jesus Christ and his broth­er.

The expressed, acknowl­edged sin has lost all its pow­er. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fel­low­ship asun­der. Now the fel­low­ship bears the sin of the broth­er. He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in con­fes­sion and hand­ed it over to God. It has been tak­en away from him. Now he stands in the fel­low­ship of sin­ners who live by the grace of God in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Now he can be a sin­ner and still enjoy the grace of God. He can con­fess his sins and in this very act find fel­low­ship for the first time. The sin con­cealed sep­a­rat­ed him from the fel­low­ship, made all his appar­ent fel­low­ship a sham; the sin con­fessed has helped him to find true fel­low­ship with the brethren in Jesus Christ. 

More­over, what we have said applies sole­ly to con­fes­sion between two Chris­tians. A con­fes­sion of sin in the pres­ence of all the mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion is not required to restore one to fel­low­ship with the whole con­gre­ga­tion. I meet the whole con­gre­ga­tion in the one broth­er to whom I con­fess my sins and who for­gives my sins. In the fel­low­ship I find with this one broth­er I have already found fel­low­ship with the whole con­gre­ga­tion. In this mat­ter no one acts in his own name nor by his own author­i­ty, but by the com­mis­sion of Jesus Christ. This com­mis­sion is giv­en to the whole con­gre­ga­tion and the indi­vid­ual is called mere­ly to exer­cise it for the con­gre­ga­tion. If a Chris­t­ian is in the fel­low­ship of con­fes­sion with a broth­er he will nev­er be alone again, anywhere.

Bon­ho­ef­fer, Diet­rich. Life Togeth­er: The Clas­sic Explo­ration of Chris­t­ian Com­mu­ni­ty. New York: Harper­One, 2009. pp. 112 – 113.

Join the 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion. Cur­rent­ly under­way and runs through May 2021.

Learn More >