Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 11

Here, bearing the burden of the other means tolerating the reality of the other’s creation by God—affirming it, and in bearing with it, breaking through to delight in it.

This will be especially difficult where both the strong and the weak in faith are bound together in one community. The weak must not judge the strong; the strong must not despise the weak. The weak must guard against pride, the strong against indifference. Neither must seek their own rights.

(p. 101). It’s a standard argument in Church of Christ debates that the strong must submit to the weak. Therefore, those insisting on this or that argue that the other side should see them as weak and thus submit to them.

Of course, they’ll adamantly deny that they are in fact weak. They’ll claim to be the strong! And yet, despite the claim, they’ll refuse to submit to the weak.

You see, Paul’s use of “strong” and “weak” in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 is not to give either side a sword to use against the other, but to insist that both sides fall on their own swords. Both sides — as both will see themselves as the strong — must submit to the other.

And so, when we demand to be treated as weak, we turn the argument on its head, demanding that we be submitted to, when Paul’s point is that we must submit. All of us. Both weak and strong.

When both sides submit, then neither side can insist on its rights; indeed, rights are burned on the altar. They are sacrificed to God and nothing remains but submission and service.

Then who wins? Well, the fight is no longer about winning and losing when both sides surrender. It becomes about something else, something bigger and more important.

When both sides surrender, they are freed from the compulsion to win and thereby freed to ask what God truly wants in this situation. What does God want? Where is his Spirit leading us? What best serves his mission? How can the needs of my brother be satisfied without destroying the unity of the church? While still serving God’s mission? What choice furthers the Kingdom?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 11

  1. Jerry says:

    This week, Tim Archer has posted several articles about the common expression, “All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” His emphasis is pacific as he calls on all to “wait on God” as we “overcome evil with good.” His post today is very much in line with the thrust of this post by Jay.

  2. “When both sides submit, then neither side can insist on its rights”

    What rights are those? Where are rights listed in the Bible?

  3. Jerry says:

    While he did not give a list of rights, Paul referred to at least one “right” when he asked, “Do we not have the right to lead about a wife who is a sister?” He inferred a right to being supported by the church to whom he ministered in 1 Corinthians 9.

    Yet, he gave up these “rights” for the sake of the kingdom of God.

    Of course, Dwayne’s question does have cogency. Most of our attitude toward “rights” comes more from our American (human) culture than from the Scriptures.

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