Right now the small group that Pam and I are a part of (which I love) is reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book “The Cost of Discipleship” (which I also love). In his chapter on “Single-Minded Obedience” Bonhoeffer discusses our tendency to over-spiritualize Jesus’s statements and commands in such a way that we actually disobey the commands while thinking that we are obeying them. We take the command of Christ and think to ourselves

He obviously didn’t mean that literally. No He meant that I should live out the spirit of the statement. He just used the literal/physical example as a way for me to understand His actual meaning.

Then we disobey the command of God and actually think we are obeying Jesus. I love the example Bonhoeffer gives.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer states:

How is such absurdity possible? What has happened that the word of Jesus can be thus degraded by this trifling, and thus left open to the mockery of the world? When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: “Father tells me to go to bed, but he rally means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: ‘Go out and play.’” If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand — in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandment of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible! (p. 81)

It seems odd to say that sometimes we over-spiritualize Jesus. After all, I believe that Jesus is 100% God & 100% human. I think you could argue that such over-spiritualization isn’t spiritual at all. It is just another face that we use for disobedience. Still I think Bonhoeffer nails it because sometimes we (read this as “I”) use the “spiritual” to avoid the literal words/meaning of Christ.

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