Grace as Solidarity (Gollwitzer)

Here’s a great quote on grace as solidarity by Helmut Gollwitzer, one of Barth’s students in Basel, and it comes from a sermon collected in the book The Way to LifeEnjoy!

“The beautiful word ‘grace’, which originally means ‘to turn oneself to someone to help’, even this beautiful word is unfortunately so hackneyed, that some years ago a Jewish scholar proposed to clarify it and make it come alive for us by using the modern word ‘solidarity’. The man who is solidary with us, who is consistently and wholly on our side, shares everything with us, does not wish to be better off than us, puts at stake for us everything that he has and can, fights for us, and will see it that we are served. …’God is solidary with us’… We are surrounded, carried, ruled and expected by an eternal Solidarity that stands on our side, suffers with us, fights for us, sacrifices itself of us, and wins the future for us. That is our reality, this is the source of our life. This Solidarity gives us guidance for our life, and at the same time promises to stand in for us when, through following its guidance, as is to be expected, we meet hostility and the gravest affliction. This is the confidence of those who hear and receive this Solidarity. … And when we treat in an opposite manner the man who at our side is downtrodden and oppressed and hungry, and ourselves tread others down and oppress them, then we are unsolidary with the God who is solidary with this fellow-man, and whose solidarity is the source of our own life.

To believe means: to hear this Solidarity speaking with us, and to speak with it, and to rely more on it than on all other solidarities, with a reason for confidence which remains when all other reasons for confidence collapse. … And to believe means to be solidary with those with whom God is solidary, a messenger of the solidarity of God in relation to the man next to us, because he is not solidary with us without being solidary with the man next to us. Solidarity is freedom for the other man, as God is free for us.1

God in Christ became our brother, took up our condition as His own, took up solidarity with us in our humanity. Gollwitzer here beautifully brings out the twofold nature of God’s solidarity with us. It is a solidarity of God with us in our difficulties, in our human condition, but it is at once our solidarity with God in another, our freedom to be for another, for the downtrodden and oppressed, to see God in the face of the broken. May we all learn to be more in solidarity with our neighbor as we follow the lead of Jesus Christ who has taken up solidarity with us!

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  1. Gollwitzer, The Way to Life, p 16-7; bold mine; italics in the original.

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