Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 4

Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the common life, is not the one who sins still a person with whom I too stand under the word of Christ? Will not another Christian’s sin be an occasion for me ever anew to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches me that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ?

(p. 37). Bonhoeffer urges us to celebrate the fact that we are in community with sinners — because sin reminds us that we are all saved by grace — and that we are bound together by a common forgiveness.

When sin enters the community, we recoil because we are pledged to flee sin. But when my brother is caught in sin, despite his penitent heart and pledge of faithfulness to Jesus, I should see myself in him, just as I see Jesus in him. I see myself in his failings and imperfections, and I see Jesus in his potential and future.

When I rebuke him for  his sin, I rebuke myself, because I too am a sinner. When I beg him to repent, I only ask him to do what I also must do. When I beg him to confess, if we are confessing community, I am only asking him to do what we have all been doing all along.

Therefore, sin is an occasion that can strengthen and build community, just as a broken bone results in a stronger bone. The healing process creates a stronger, closer community as we open our hearts to one another and reveal our true natures to our brothers and sisters.

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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10 Responses to Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 4

  1. Jerry says:

    Bonhoeffer urges us to celebrate the fact that we are in community with sinners — because sin reminds us that we are all saved by grace — and that we are bound together by a common forgiveness.

    Jesus began His ministry by standing with sinners in the waters of Jordan. He ended His ministry between two thieves. In between, He was constantly in the presence of the dregs of society: the prostitutes, tax-collectors (traitors), ignorant and unlearned, the blind, the lame, the lepers – yes and the hypocrites.

    Where will we be when we become more like Jesus.

  2. Seeing our brother’s sin as a reminder of our own sin, instead of as a mark of our own superiority to him? There’s a revolutionary idea.

  3. Grizz says:


    Just a pet peeve, but did you really mean to draw a conclusion from your opening questions? I agree with the belief that a brother or sister’s sin is an opportunity for both of us to grow. I also feel that expressing it clearly and logically helps to facilitate a positive environment for that growth.

    Maybe I am just being picky.

    Overall, great thoughts and very needed. Might get you labelled a liberal, though (grinning here).



  4. Doug says:

    When we do introductions at the start of a Prison ministry weekend, we ask the inmates to identify their Church. Here in the SE USA, it seems that most every inmate does have some kind of a church affiliation. It seems like we are so different, the guys inside and the guys from the free world but in just a matter of hours all that changes and we all realize that we are really the same. That’s when you decide that the old saying “There but for the grace of God go I” is completely wrong. It should just be “There go I”. Pray for the the brothers and sisters in prison and jails.

  5. Alabama John says:


    One in fourteen of us has been, is, or will be, jailed or in prison in this country.

    The statistic of numbers in prison in this country compared to the rest of the Countries of the world is shocking.

    We sure lock our citizens up far more percentage wise than any other.

    God wants them ministered to. His followers sure spent time and had criminal records but low and behold Jesus made them Apostles.

    Hard time makes one seek God and maybe that is why some got sent there.

    God will bless your efforts far more than you’ll ever know!!!!

  6. Todd Collier says:

    Doug, you knocked me over with that insight.

    Thank you!

    “There go I.” And now to find God’s grace for us both.

  7. My favorite part of worshipping with one federal prison congregation was the part of the service where they asked the traditional, “Anyone here for the first time?”, followed by the less-traditional, “Anyone here for the LAST time?” Services where someone stood for that second question usually departed the text and turned into a full-tilt celebration. I have gladly led worship bands in long-play praise on those really special occasions.

  8. Doug says:

    Amen Charles. I am usually a part of the praise team in prison and the music we sing is just tremendous. Everyone is singing and if the song calls for it, at the top of their lungs. It would easily put to shame the Sunday morning praise at most Churches. I always feel very blessed to be able to stand in front of the guys so that I get the full efect of their praise. The fullness of the Holy Spirit can get so overflowing that the hair on my arms stand up. I love it when that happens.

  9. Alabama John says:

    The military and prison worship services are unbelievably good and honest.

    It might be because those there are not following tradition or any human requirement, but, are there because individually they want to be and no one around them cares whether they are or not.

    To even get to the meeting place for church takes some effort, sometimes a lot, as prisoners aren’t allowed to just stroll to anywhere they want, even church.

    More should try it. (From the visitors side) lol

  10. eric says:

    There should be a class on this. It is such a temptation after Christ transforms me out of a particular sin to start looking down on others for that same thing. Also the things I don’t struggle with are easy targets as well. Though the closer I get to Christ the easier it is to empathize. The clearer I see Christ the clearer I see me.

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