Saturday, August 27, 2011

You need an alien righteousness to be in community


"...the Christian is the man who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone.  He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces his guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all.  The Christian no longer lives of himself, by his own claims and his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification.  He lives wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him, whether that Word declares him guilty or innocent.
The death and the life of the Christian is not determined by his own resources; rather he finds both only in the Word that comes to him from outside, in God’s Word to him.  The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an “alien righteousness,” a righteousness that comes from outside of us (extra nos).  They were saying that the Christian is dependent on the Word of God spoken to him.  He is pointed outward, to the Word that comes to him…
But God has put his Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men.  When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others.  God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.  He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.  He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.  The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.  As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.  Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this “alien righteousness…”"
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, from Chapter 1 - Community

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