I have been hitting some tough passages as of late. Bonhoeffer, as you know, if you have read him, is a tough and slow read. He says so much in such short amounts of space. His mind is unbelievable. But what do I expect from someone who wrote their doctoral dissertation at age 21 by writing Sanctorum Communio by age 21, and then, three years later, published Act and Being as his thesis, to allow him to teach. Unbelievable.
Today, I was taken by this passage particularly. Here is an excerpt:
Jesus Christ stands between the lover and the others he loves……Because Christ stands between me and others, I dare not desire direct fellowship with them. As only Christ can speak to me in such a way that I may be saved, so others, too, can be saved only by Christ himself. This means that I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. The other person needs to retain his independence of me; to be loved for what he is, as one for whom Christ became man, died, and rose again, for whom Christ bought forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ’s eyes. This is the meaning of the proposition that we can meet others only through the mediation of Christ. Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become. It takes the life of the other person into his own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person which he has received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men.
Wow! What to say?
This reminds me of something one of my favorite professors used to tell his class, regarding love. He would tell us that he had been married to his wife for about 57 years now. And that she was still a mystery. Sure, he knows things about her after 57 years. What she likes. Dislikes. Etc. But that she is still a mystery. That if he tried to coerce her, and dominate her, and know everything he could possibly know. Or if he tried to shape her into the woman he wanted her to be….then he would have taken away her freedom to be who she was in God’s eyes, as created by God. We were all blown away by this. Of course, it was much better coming out of his mouth, then my blog.
But I wonder after reading Bonhoeffer, how much we try to coerce, manipulate, regulate, dominate, etc., people in our lives. Maybe not overtly, but the same nonetheless.
Do we do this in our church community? Coercing people to behave in certain ways, and then regulating them to maintain a certain life?
Do we do this in our marriages, or relationships? Do we as Christian men try and dominate women at times, twisting Scripture, and forgetting the part about mutual submission? How many guys have I sat around and heard tell stories about how they just need to get their girl to do this, then she would be more spiritual, etc. And that works the other direction as well, with woman coercing men at times.
How do we treat people in our community?
Is Christ our mediator? Do we see all people, all relationships through Him, rather than through our own desires and ambitions?
What about retaining independence from the other person? How many relationships do we strain the life out of because we want to take away their independence, only in hopes of making them more ours?
Reminds me of the beautiful quote by the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.
Or of the beautiful passage in The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran:
Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”
And he answered saying: You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
This would change everything I believe. Christ as our Mediator.