From the fifth chapter of martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book
The Cost of Discipleship…At the very moment of their call, men find that they have already broken with all the natural ties of life. This is not their own doing, but His who calls them. For Christ has delivered them from immediacy with the world, and brought them into immediacy with Himself. We cannot follow Christ unless we are prepared to accept and affirm that breach as a fait accompli. It is no arbitrary choice on the disciple’s part, but Christ Himself, who compels him thus to break with his past.
We must face up to the truth that the call of Christ does set up a barrier between man and his natural life. But this barrier is no surly contempt for life, no legalistic piety, it is the life which is life indeed, the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ. By virtue of His incarnation He has come between man and his natural life. There can be no turning back, for Christ bars the way.
He stands between us and God, and for that very reason He stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality.
The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion. All the time we thought we had enjoyed a direct relationship with men and things. This is what had hindered us from faith and obedience. Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life, in our kinship with father and mother, brothers and sisters, in married love, and in our duty to the community, direct relationships are impossible.
Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize Him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through Him, through His word, and through our following of Him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.
Wherever a group, be it large or small, prevents us from standing alone before Christ, wherever such a group raises a claim of immediacy it must be hated for the sake of Christ. For every immediacy, whether we realize it or not, means hatred of Christ, and this is especially true where such relationships claim the sanction of Christian principles.
For the Christian the only God-given realities are those he receives from Christ. What is not given us through the incarnate Son is not given us by God.
Anything I cannot thank God for, for the sake of Christ, I may not thank God for at all; to do so would be sin.
The path, too, to the ‘God-given reality’ of my fellow man or woman with whom I have to live leads through Christ, or it is a blind alley. We are separated from one another by an unbridgeable gulf of otherness and strangeness which resists all our attempts to overcome it by means of natural association or emotional or spiritual union. There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behaviour, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get in touch with our neighbours through Him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbours, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.
This breach with all our immediate relationships is inescapable. It may take the form of an external breach with family or nation; in that case we shall be called upon to bear visibly the reproach of Christ… Or it may be a hidden and a secret breach. But even then we must always be ready to come out into the open.
Though we all have to enter upon discipleship alone, we do not remain alone. If we take Him at His word and dare to become individuals, our reward is the fellowship of the Church. Here is a visible brotherhood to compensate a hundredfold for all we have lost. A hundredfold? Yes, for we now have everything through the Mediator, but with this proviso—‘with persecutions’. A hundredfold with persecutions—such is the grace which is granted to the Church which follows its Lord beneath the cross.
And they were in the way, going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus was going before them: and they were amazed; and they that followed were afraid. And He took again the Twelve, and began to tell them the things that were to happen to Him.
As if to bring home to them how serious was his call, to show them how impossible it was to follow in their own strength, and to emphasize that adherence to Him means persecutions, Jesus goes on before to Jerusalem and to the cross, and they are filled with fear and amazement at the road He calls them to follow.