'It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians...[B]etween 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.
'The physical presence of other Christians is a source of joy and strength to the believer. Longingly the imprisoned apostle Paul calls his 'dearly beloved son in the faith'., Timothy, to come to him again and have him near.
'It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trampled under foot by those who have the gift every day. ...It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.'
Of course, Bonhoeffer was speaking in the particular context of the 'live-in seminary' of the Confessing Church at Finkenwalde, Germany, before the Second World War. But his thoughts in this book are applicable with little difficulty to the life of the church generally.