Book Review: Life Together

Review by David Guo

COVID-19 led us to question our church community and culture. What does genuine fellowship look like? Can the church survive if we are not in regular contact? What are the essentials to God’s community? We ought to assess the culture of community so we can faithfully move forward as God’s servants. 

Written in Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer’s Life Together deals bluntly with these concerns. He offers profound insights about physical gatherings to the modern, comfortable Christian.

Bonhoeffer doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He presents simple truths that we often take for granted. Since reading the book last year, his words are still stuck with me. From start to finish, there is a tone of sincere appreciation and belief in the gift of fellowship. This is what makes Life Together so unbelievably powerful.

“One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for something for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires in Christian brotherhood.”  D. Bonhoeffer 

It is easy to camouflage my selfish desires behind seemingly good things – prayer meetings, social events, accountability groups. But, Bonhoeffer helped me realize that I am distorting God’s grace given community to merely feed on my ambition. What I was doing was reprehensible.

God hates the dreamer that wishes to impose his own vision into God’s holy community. “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality”. In other words, fellowship is not something we are working towards – God has already achieved fellowship for us. We are bound together by faith through Christ, and not by worldly experiences or interest. So, it only makes sense that we must return to his Word in order to grow as a church. 

Life Together also brings wisdom into many other overlooked Christian practices. From morning devotion of the Psalms to the ministry of listening, meekness, and holding one’s tongue, it is difficult not to be challenged.  

You won’t find quick fixes to the church community in Life Together. It is a hard book to read because it faces you with the truth. But I assure you that if you are seeking a meaningful answer to the questions above, it will not disappoint. As someone who doesn’t highlight very often, this is one of the most colourful books in my library. From life alone to life together as Christians, this book will deepen your understanding of what fellowship is and could be if we are faithful to the Scriptures.