Monday, March 11, 2013

Complete Insecurity.

"What is said about the content of discipleship? Follow me, walk behind me! That is all. Going after him is something without specific content. It is truly not a program for one's life which would be sensible to implement. It is neither a goal nor an ideal to be sought. It is not even a matter for which, according to human inclination, it would be worth investing anything at all, much less oneself. And what happens? Those called leave everything they have, not in order to do something valuable. Instead, they do it simply for the sake of the call itself, because otherwise they could not walk behind Jesus. Nothing of importance is attached to this action in itself. It remains something completely insignificant, unworthy of notice. The bridges are torn down, and the followers simply move ahead. They are called away and are supposed to "step out" of their previous existence, they are supposed to "exist" in the strict sense of the word. Former things are left behind; they are completely given up. The disciple is thrown out of the relative security of life into complete insecurity (which in truth is absolute security and protection in community with Jesus); our of the foreseeable and calculable realm (which in truth is unreliable) into the completely unforeseeable, coincidental realm (which in truth is the only necessary and reliable one); out of the realm of possibilities (which in truth is that of unlimited possibilities) into the realm of unlimited possibilities (which in truth is the only liberating reality). Yet that is not a general law; it is, rather, the exact opposite of all legalism. Again, it is nothing other than being bound to Jesus Christ alone. This means completely breaking through anything preprogrammed, idealistic, or legalistic. No further content is possible because Jesus is the only content. There is no other content besides Jesus. He himself is it."

- Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 59.

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous and afraid to read Discipleship. I knew that whatever agreements or disagreements I had with the text, it would disrupt my life in unwanted ways. Disruption, I think, is the best word to describe this book. And for whatever Bonhoeffer came to say later in his life about the dangers of this book (and there are many), what he says within its pages are still really important.

The truth of this one line has been really apparent for me as of late. Bonhoeffer writes that the life of discipleship is one of "complete insecurity." And most of us have our own conceptions of what that "complete insecurity" looks like. I have realized through my own life and personal theological struggles just how far down that "complete insecurity" goes. It can be quite unsettling to realize just how "complete" that insecurity is when you follow the call. Because where on earth is there to turn for security when Jesus Christ is the only content for the Gospel and the call to discipleship? Where can this Gospel and call be "plugged in" for the sake of verification or some other form of stability? It exists and is "suspended in mid-air" as Barth would say. You can't plug it into the Church, the tradition, the social program, the Bible, or some other apologetic to confirm its truth. You simply find yourself confessing and following.

To be quite honest, when I'm confronted with that "complete insecurity" that Bonhoeffer talks about, I don't find the same type of absolute security and protection that he mentions, which is found only in Jesus Christ himself. What I'm finding lately is yet another mode or means of security that I must dispossess in order to be faithful to the call of discipleship. I just continue to find my own desire for security in another form. For instance, it is no secret that I have become quite interested in apocalyptic theology over the past few years. But I've discerned that even disruption or the radical unstable nature of the Gospel becomes another mode of possession that ends up being an end in itself. While I believe that the Gospel of grace is disruptive to nature's very core, even disruption, instability, and radicalness for its own sake must be dispossessed. Do you know what that looks like? Because I haven't the faintest idea. Bonhoeffer says it looks like Jesus Christ himself alone. Does the fact that I don't have any idea what that means reveal that I'm radically missing his point?

As I've been asking these questions about the nature of discipleship lately, I'm finding the call (and great struggle) to abandon all forms of control that surface in the most subtle of ways. When I study theology, I'm studying how to be faithful in my words and thoughts and actions to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet, I'm learning that all of my words and thoughts and actions are so incredibly bound up with the Sin and Death that reigns in this world that I'm unsure of the truth of my own words and thoughts and actions even as I try to be faithful. And I'm learning that even my attempts to be faithful are usually faithless and that any faithfulness is nothing but a complete miracle. But somehow I'm "called" to forfeit this desire for security in my own words and thoughts and actions and only find security in not even the call itself, but only the person of Jesus Christ alone. And to be honest, once again, I'm finding that I have no idea what that really means or what that really looks like. I'm learning that the hardest thing about this whole call to discipleship that no one tells you about is that we always and continually lose sight of the reality that "there is no other content besides Jesus." Because the content isn't some program, system, principle, or some insecurity, instability or disruption or even the act of being a disciple itself. Somehow Bonhoeffer wants the reader to know that the content is only Jesus Christ. In myself, I have no idea what that means. But I pray for the grace and mercy to confess no other content besides Jesus himself.


Daniel Imburgia said...

Much obliged Kait. Perhaps this poem by Ibn Abbad resonates a bit with you and Bonhoeffer?


For the servant of God
Consolation is the place of danger
Where he may be deluded
(Accepting only what he sees,
Experiences, or knows)
But desolation is his home:
For in desolation he is seized by God
And entirely taken over into God,
In darkness, in emptiness,
In loss, in death of self.
Then the self is only ashes. Not even ashes!


Rod Lampard said...
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Rod Lampard said...

Amen, may we all have the 'grace and mercy to confess no other content besides Jesus himself'.I really liked your reference to disturptive grace - this falls in well with what Walter Brueggemann wrote in a reading I encountered last night:

'Jesus...exposes all established truth as false.That confrontation is an epitome of the crisis that characteristically evokes in the world, because his presence his truth-telling and his vocation breaks the pattern of deception and self-deception to make way for new life' - (Subvervise Obedience 2011, p.xii)

chris said...

thank you for this wonderful post. insecurity all the way down is something i will be pondering for a long time...

the life and words of jean vanier are close to what i imagine dispossession might look like in our society.

Dan Sullivan said...
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