Disillusionment as Grace

A lot of our struggles with church stem from disillusionment. Because the church aspires to be the People of God, the visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God, the church always triggers our idealism. We're attracted to church because of what it could and should be.

But the church rarely is what it could or should be. So the church both raises and dashes our hopes. You can't help but become idealistic when talking about the church, but that idealism creates expectations that human communities cannot meet. So hopes crash and disillusionment follows.

But might disillusionment actually be a great grace? Might our disappointment with the church be a gift? That's the argument Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes in Life Together:
Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

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