Meditations on God, Humanity and Community

Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbour, but my neighbour. For don’t we often make this mistake as regards people who are still alive—who are with us in the same room? Talking and acting not to the man himself but to the picture—almost the précis—we’ve made of him in our own minds? And he has to depart from it pretty widely before we even notice the fact.

—C.S. Lewis

“Almost everyone finds their early days in a community ideal. It all seems perfect. They feel they are surrounded by saints, heroes, or at the least, most exceptional people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the let-down. The greater their idealization of the community at the start, the greater the disenchantment. If people manage to get through this second period, they come to a third phase—that of realism and of true commitment. They no longer see other members of the community as saints or devils, but as people—each with a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, each growing and each with their own hope. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready to walk in it, and with it. They accept the community and the other members as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards something more beautiful.”

—Jean Vanier

“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings AS THEY ARE; not an ideal world, but the REAL WORLD. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love. God establishes a most intimate unity with this. God becomes human, a real human being. While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity, to leave the human behind us, GOD BECOMES HUMAN; and we must recognize that God wills that we be human, real human beings. While we distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base, God loves REAL PEOPLE without distinction. God has no patience with our dividing the world and humanity according to our standards and imposing ourselves as judges over them. God leads us into absurdity by becoming a real human being and a companion of sinners, thereby forcing us to become the judges of God. God stands beside the real human being and the real world against ALL THEIR ACCUSERS. So God becomes accused along with human beings and the world, and thus the judges become the accused.

“But it is not enough to say that God embraces human beings. This affirmation rests on an infinity deeper one, a sentence with a more impenetrable meaning, that God in the conception and birth of Jesus Christ has taken on humanity BOLDILY. God overrules every reproach of untruth, doubt and uncertainty raised against God’s love by entering as a human being into human life, by taking on and bearing bodily the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings. God becomes human out of love for humanity. God does not seek the most perfect human being with whom to be united, but takes on human nature AS IT IS. Jesus is not the transfiguration of noble humanity but the Yes of God to real human beings, nor the dispassionate Yes of a judge but the merciful Yes of a compassionate sufferer. In this Yes all of the life and all the hope of the world are comprised. IN THE HUMAN JESUS CHRIST THE WHOLE OF HUMANITY HAS BEEN JUDGED; again this is not the uninvolved judgment of a judge, but the merciful judgment of one who has borne and suffered the fate of all humanity. Jesus is not *a* human being but *the* human being. What happens to him happens to human beings. It happens to all and therefore to us. The name of Jesus embraces in itself the whole of humanity and the whole of God.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics 84-85

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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