There’s this “thing” in common Christianity that we have to “be like Jesus”… Bonhoeffer suggests we get caught between so-called Practical and so-called Dogmatic Christianity with a phrase like that, when each fails equally in the world.
The shaping forces of the world differ from that in Christianity. So “shaping” must mean something different that what we normally understand by it (p. 132). Scripture is not concerned with the shaping of the world through planning and programming (that’s not just the world though, is it?).
Scripture only prioritizes the shape of Christ. As His disciples, our shape comes from His shape — not through the programs, but when we let
the shape of Jesus Christ work on us in such a way that if forms our shape after its own
The Jesus model shapes people into His form.
How do we present His shape? According to Bonhoeffer, it is not the teaching of a good and pious life alone. That puts humans into the shape of a life, not the shape of Jesus Christ Himself. Our ideas about being superhuman, rising above our humanity, being a hero, or some demigod all work against submission to the shape of Christ.
To conform to the Bible’s definition of “shape” means change into Jesus’ form. Shape into the form of the Incarnate one, the God with a bodily form, means we must be real human beings.
In other words, humanity is not our curse. It is the vehicle for authentic experience with God through Jesus Christ. The real human being, Bonhoeffer says, is not an object of scorn (too low or despised) or of deification (too high or praised), but an object of God’s love. We do not escape humanity through teaching to rise above it, live beyond it, or kill it.
The battle is real — when we move to do good, evil is present. Our mind gives Godly commands, and our humanity (flesh) resists at times. Bonhoeffer’s point is that Christlikeness — or the process of sanctification — happens in Christ, not around Him or because of programs or events about Him.
The transformation happens in Christ. And that is where we need be. That is where we place people…IN CHRIST. That is how powerful prayer agrees with God unto the transformation of souls. When shape manifests, the outer life produces through our humanity a new creature in Christ.
Selah Beloved, and love to all.
Reference: Bonhoeffer, D. (1906-1945). I want to live these days with you: A year of daily devotions. (O. C. Dean, Jr., Trans.). London, England: Westminster John Knox Press.