While this chapter is a bit heavier to read through than some of the others, the ideas Bonhoeffer explores here build logically off the preceding chapter. In chapter four, Bonhoeffer speaks of suffering as distance between us and God. In this chapter, he starts with the assumption that this distance is fundamental to the human experience. There is distance between us and God as well as between us and every other person, think, and reality of creation. He refers to this distance as the “break.”
Though we may try to overcome this break in many different and varied ways, there is only one who can bridge that distance, Jesus. He is the mediator that stands between us and God, the mediator that stands between us and all creation. Jesus is the only conduit by which we can have real connection. Nor does Bonhoeffer believe that this is a goal to which we aspire; it is the very nature of reality. Christ is always and has always been the one who stands between us and everything else, whether we realize it or not. The path of discipleship involves us coming to recognize this reality. The path of discipleship means seeing that every relationship we have—whether it be with our children, our spouses, our friends, or complete strangers, is a relationship that flows through Christ. Every interaction we have, every moment of admiration for another, for our country, or for creation itself flows through Christ. If it is not mediated through Christ, then it is not real; it is an illusion, for nothing else can overcome the gap that exists between each of us and creation itself.
This is the loneliness of which Bonhoeffer speaks. And through our immediacy with Christ alone, we become a part of a greater community—the community of the faithful. In discipleship, we lose the illusion of immediacy we thought we had with others as we come to see that there is only Christ. And through Christ, we gain something far more wonderful—relationships and connections that are real.
When have you had the experience of “retreating to the cover of relationships and responsibilities,” when you have been asked to make an important decision? When have you experienced your own objections being silenced by the pressures of relationship and responsibilities?
How do you think and act differently towards your relationships and your responsibilities with the knowledge that they exist only through Christ?