What Groucho Marx, Heavenly Sandpaper and Bonhoeffer have in common
Groucho Marx said he wouldn't want to have anything to do with a club that would have him as a member. An elder of my church told me this morning that he believes each member is empowered to go to a brother/sister and say, "Look, I've heard rumors that I want to ask you about." This is part of the process of restoring a brother or sister. We should not assume that someone else has confronted the person and a problem (though we could certainly try to find out). We often assume someone else is closer to the situation. We are accountable to be accountable. Somehow we live in the tension between 1 Corinthians 5:11 (don't even eat with a greedy, immoral, etc. person) and James 5:19-20 (chase a brother and restore him). I'm glad there's tension there in Scripture. We always think we have to know "the answer" in blacks and whites, but God is a God of mercy and judgment.
I suppose I should follow a Groucho quote with a dignified Bonhoeffer quote; one that has meant so much to me over the last ten years throughout mission team personal dynamics and growth and work in churches and in relationships with co-workers and neighbors...
Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream...Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all it’s unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insist upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse.
Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words or deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together--the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. The morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship. --Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 26-27
Mom simply calls this process "heavenly sandpaper." She's right. She usually is.