Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 3-5

1.  Bonhoeffer begins chapter three by clarifying our obedience to Jesus: “But the call of Jesus made short work of all these barriers, and created obedience.  That call was the Word of God himself, and all that it required was single-minded obedience.” The common response: “All along the line we are trying to evade the obligation of single-minded, literal obedience.”

- What is the difference between simple-minded obedience and single-minded obedience?

2.  The actual call of Jesus and the response of single-minded obedience have an irrevocable significance.  By means of them, Jesus calls people into an actual situation where faith is possible. For that reason, his call is an actual call, and he wishes it so to be understood, because he knows that it is only through actual obedience that a man can become liberated to believe.”

- Think of a time when you experienced this faith dynamic of perceiving the call of Jesus in a particular situation. How did your response of single-minded obedience “liberate you to believe?”
- In other words, how did your obedient acceptance of Jesus’ invitation to follow him lead to renewed faith? Share an example.

3.  In chapter four, Bonhoeffer ties discipleship to the cross. “Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the ‘must’ of suffering applies to his disciples no less than to himself.  Just as Christ is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only is so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion.  Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ, which is the law of the cross.”

- What does it mean for us, in our discipleship today, to share in the suffering, rejection, and crucifixion of Christ?

4. “As Christ bears our burdens, so ought we to bear the burdens of our fellow-men.  The law of Christ, which it is our duty to fulfil, is the bearing of the cross.  My brother’s burden, which I must bear, is not only his outward lot, his natural characteristics and gifts, but quite literally his sin.  And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which I now share.  Thus, the call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins.  Forgiveness is the Christ-like suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.”

- As Christians, then, are we left with personal choice as to whom and when we forgive?
- How does the cross of Christ free us to forgive others as Christ forgives us?

5. In chapter five, Bonhoeffer discusses discipleship and the individual.  “The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion.  All the time, we thought we had enjoyed a direct relation with men and things. This is what had hindered us from faith and obedience.  Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life…direct relationships are impossible.  Since the coming of Christ, his followers have no more immediate realities of their own, not in their family relationships nor in the ties with their nation nor in the relationships formed in the process of living.  Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize him or not.  We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.”

- How has our relation to the world been built on “an illusion?”
- What precisely is that illusion?  Why do humans cling to it?

6. “For the Christian, the only God-given realities are those he receives from Christ.” “Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.”

- How does prayer, in Christ, affect & shape all relationships?
- How might our prayers influence local/national/world actions?

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