Editor's note:

Last week, over 45 students, faculty, and staff gathered together in Attleboro, MA for the third residency of the Boston Cohort of the Renovaré Institute. With laughter, tears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of snacks, we experienced together a week of fellowship and community, learning and growing together. 

What better way to celebrate this past week than with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sweet meditation on the blessings of Christian community from his book Life Together? To us at the Institute, he just seems to capture perfectly the great gift we enjoyed simply by being in each other’s presence.

If the idea of spending two years with an intentional community of fellow pilgrims—all the while reading soul-stretching books and engaging in life-shaping spiritual practices—sounds intriguing, we invite you to visit our Institute page. Applications are currently open for the 2018 Chicago Cohort.  

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Life Together

‘BEHOLD, HOW good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’(Ps. 133.1).

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. Longingly the imprisoned apostle Paul calls ‘his dearly beloved son in the faith’, Timothy to come to him in prison in the last days of his life; he would see him again and have him near. Paul has not forgotten the tears Timothy shed when last they parted (II Tim. 1.4). Remembering the congregation in Thessalonica, Paul prays ‘night and day … exceedingly that we might see your face’ (1 Thess. 3.10). The aged John knows that his joy will not be full until he can come to his own people and speak face to face instead of writing with ink (2 John 12).

The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother. The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy. They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!

It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

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Excerpted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (New York: HarperOne, 2009). Via Vine Church.