Who Has Heard Correctly?
Reading Discipleship for this seminar on Bonhoeffer is proving to be quite a jarring experience. As an Anabaptist, passages like the one Bonhoeffer concludes his discussion on the Sermon on the Mount with should not be as troubling to me as perhaps they might be for others… As one who is often prone to drift toward rationalism… ouch!
We have heard the Sermon on the Mount; perhaps we have understood it. But who has heard it correctly? Jesus answers this question last. Jesus does not permit his listeners to simply walk away, making whatever they like of his discourse, extracting what seems to them to be useful in their lives, testing how this teaching compares to “reality.” Jesus does not deliver his word up to his listeners, so that it is misused in their rummaging hands. Instead, he gives it to them in a way that it alone retains power over them. From the human point of view there are countless possibilities of understanding and interpreting the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus knows only one possibility: simply go and obey. Do not interpret or apply, but do it and obey. That is the only way Jesus’ word is really heard.
I know that this was written at an earlier stage in Bonhoeffer’s career, and I know that he himself either changed his views toward, or was unable to live up to his own writings on the Sermon on the Mount, but still…