A review of Bonhoeffer’s teachings from the previous four weeks
THE FIRST MINISTRY– LISTENING
The First act of love is to listen. THE FIRST SERVICE that one owes to others in the Community consists in listening to them…
THE SECOND MINISTRY– HELPFULNESS
THE SECOND SERVICE that one should perform for another in a Christian Community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the simplest service.
THE THIRD MINISTRY-BEARING THE BURDEN OF EACH OTHER
WE SPEAK, THIRD, of the service that consists in bearing others. “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
IT IS, FIRST of all, the FREEDOM of the other person, of which we spoke earlier, that is the burden to the Christian. Another person’s freedom collides with my own autonomy, yet I must recognize it. I could get rid of this burden by refusing his or her freedom, by constraining that other person and thus doing violence to their personality, by stamping my own image upon that person. But if we recognize that God is creating God’s own image in that person, we by this token give the other person his or her freedom and that person bears the burden of this freedom. The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person’s nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes their weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, and, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it.
THEN, BESIDES THE, other’s freedom, there is the abuse of that freedom that becomes a burden for the Christian. The sin of the other person is harder to bear than that person’s freedom; for in sin, connectedness with God and with the sister or brother is broken. Here the Christian suffers the rupture of his or her connection with the other person that had its basis in Jesus Christ. But here, too, it is only in bearing with our brothers and sisters that the great GRACE of God becomes wholly plain. To cherish no contempt for the sinner but rather to prize the privilege of bearing the person means not to have to give him or her up as lost, to be able to accept that person, to preserve community with them through forgiveness.
THE SERVICE OF FORGIVENESS is rendered by one to the others daily. It occurs, without words, in the intercessions for one another. And every member of the community, who does not grow weary in this ministry, can depend upon it that this service is also being rendered to them by their brothers and sisters. When we bear others we know that we, ourselves, are being borne, and only in this strength can we go on bearing.
THE FOURTH MINISTRY-SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
The speaking of that Word is beset with infinite perils. If it is not accompanied by worthy listening, how can it really be the right word for the other person? If it is contradicted by one’s own lack of helpfulness, how can it be a convincing and sincere word? If it issues, not from a spirit of bearing and forbearing, but from impatience and the desire to force its acceptance, how can it be the liberating and healing word? [One can only speak truth in love if they have first shown love to the other by their previous words and actions and demonstrated a continued commitment to the other.]
…In speaking the truth in love, God can re-bind elements together, re-create community and grant grace. [First show your love to another by being of helpful service, second by bearing the burden of another in love and third, by speaking the truth in love. Speak simply, directly and humbly, and trust the Holy Spirit with the rest.]
Bonhoeffer’s “Four Services” have been modified
to be gender inclusive byJohn Winn