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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…


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. yup its a slap on the wrist to all those us us who have arm twisted not just the Sermon on the mount but scripture itself into whatever we want it to say. Not enough is made of the way obedience becomes the best hermeneutic…

    January 25, 2007
  2. In a discussion of the ethics from the Sermon on the Mount, Stanley Hauerwas comments that “even the most casual observer realizes that he or she has been confronted by a way that does not make sense” (Resident Aliens). According to Hauerwas the Sermon is significant to the world exactly because it does not make sense on the basis of the world’s standards, thus the church as “aliens.” Unfortunately, it also seems difficult to comprehend within most of our Christian standards as well…

    January 25, 2007

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