“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians….[Between] the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that the visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went ‘with the multitude…to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday’ (Ps. 42:4). But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God’s will….The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy. They receive each other’s benedictions as the benedictions of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in daily fellowship of life with other Christians!..Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper One, 1954): 17, 18-19, 20. Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler.