Book Review: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This was a book that had been languishing on my shelf and my TBR for quite some time, forgotten by me. When I recently re-organized a bookshelf, I came across it and it struck me as perhaps a good book for me to read at this time. Over the past couple of years, our family has been re-evaluating a lot of things and a major one of those is what community and the church will look like for us. This book found me at exactly the right moment as I’ve been praying and reading the Bible to learn more about what my own role should be.

Bonhoeffer is famous for being a 20th century martyr. A German pastor, he was already in the United States as World War II progressed but chose to return to Germany, feeling that his place was with his fellow citizens and Christians there. He was eventually imprisoned and executed. While he is often upheld as an example of Christians fighting against injustice and corrupt government, Life Together is a book that Bonhoeffer wrote in the late 1930s, full of advice on growing and supporting Christian community, despite outside differences.

Bonhoeffer writes of the ideal of the Christian church and community – what it was created and intended to be – while being clear-eyed and honest about the ways this ideal falls flat. He examines why this community is so important, why it matters and what it means for us as individuals. He offers practical advice to foster this community and weather the inevitable difficulties. I’ll be honest, parts were difficult to read as I saw the way they highlighted my own shortcomings. Others offered a hopefulness and encouragement for continued strivings.

Bonhoeffer is practical and realistic. He offers advice on what a communal gathering should involve, how it should be included in your day, and advice on your own personal devotion. The book is divided into sections that make a lot of sense and build on each other.

Obviously this is not a book for everyone but I would also widely recommend it to Christians. The last two years have seen a large upheaval in the Church and even though this book is almost 200 years old, it feels so relevant as so many of us re-examine what it means to be a Christian and how we should live out our faith today. There is encouragement, hope, and accountability here.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

  1. How encouraging that a book written so long ago can still remain so relevant, and speak to you today? Espeically a non-fiction book? That alone is super impressive.

    1. It was so encouraging! Bonhoeffer really does have such a timeless feel to his writing. I wonder if it’s because he was writing in such a volatile time and place.

  2. I had a thought, and I wonder what your response is. In my Interpreting class we were talking about how we need CEUs — continuing education units — to remain licensed (once we get licensed, lol). Right now, Oppression, Power, and Privilege is a hot topic in the interpreting community. So what did my instructor do? She started a book club that meets every so often (I think only once per month) that discusses a book that fits the topic. They aren’t even books about d/Deaf people, just about oppression, power, privilege.

    Here is where you come in: during your time in flux with the church community, have you considered starting a book club, either in person or via Zoom, that discusses one book per month that is about living as a Christian? I think it could potentially fill something that maybe you need to fill? I know you crave the community and do-good works of Christianity. And if your small group wanted to branch out, you could even talk amongst yourselves about doing a charity thing once a month or quarter or whatever. I guess what I’m saying is that for as important as church is to Christians, Jesus did his good works with people outside of church, right? I hope you don’t think this comment is rude….I just thought of you when I was in class the other day.

    1. Not rude at all! I’ve been pondering your suggestion all weekend. I guess my initial reaction is that I feel like I would struggle to find enough people around me to form a group like that. But maybe not? It’s a really interesting idea.

    2. That’s very true. In fact, Peter and I both just read a Christian memoir that we’ve been talking about a lot together.

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