This week's "thought" is in honor of a man who was martyred for the faith 71 years ago this past Saturday (April 9th, 1945), in the closing weeks of WWII -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is taken from an online post written by Ryan Stewart, entitled, "11 Bonhoeffer Quotes to Remember a Man Who Resisted Evil Unto Death."
Bonhoeffer is best known for his books, "The Cost of Discipleship" and "Life Together." The content of each is made more powerful by the fact that he lived out the advise he gave. I personally consider Life Together the best book on Christian community ever written. There is not a believer alive who could not benefit greatly by reading those two Bonhoeffer classics.
Other biographical information is provided by the author, so I will simply end by encouraging to you consider the things Bonhoeffer wrote below. If your interest is perked, and you would like to find our more about this extraordinary man, the book,
"Bonhoeffer -- Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas (in the full 542 page version, or the abridged 214 page version) is superb. Enjoy.
Remembering a Pastor Who Resisted Evil Unto Death
"If there was ever a Christian who practiced what he preached, it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A theologian adored by evangelicals and liberals alike, Bonhoeffer is often invoked in support of action. Decrying the "cheap grace" of the German church, Bonhoeffer heralded "costly grace" — a grace that might cost a Christian his or her life.
After Hitler rose to power Bonhoeffer (who had come to America for his theological training and stayed on to teach) left his post at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and his new fiancee, to return to Nazi Germany. He would soon be accused of joining the plot to assassinate the Führer, and spend two years in prison. He was executed by the Nazi regime at Flossenbürg concentration camp just two weeks before the United States liberated the camp. Before he died (he was hanged by a cord of piano wire) he famously remarked to another prisoner, "This is the end — but for me, the beginning."
Here are 10 quotes to remember his radical legacy:
On returning to Nazi Germany:
I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.
On silence in the face of evil:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
(Correction: While often attributed to Bonhoeffer this quote does not actually exist in any of his written works. Its origin in unknown, though it could very well have been something he simply shared in a conversation without ever putting it down in print.)
On living with your enemies:
Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.
On systemic injustice:
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.
On loving Christian community:
Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself, become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.
On doing God's will:
Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.
(Correction: This quote is actually not from Bonhoeffer but from Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer's biographer, summarizing Bonhoeffer's views. His summation has often been wrongly attributed to Bonhoeffer.)
On revolutionary Christianity:
Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear... Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.
On reconciliation through Christ:
The world is overcome not through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals, nor programs, nor conscience, nor duty, nor responsibility, nor virtue, but only God's perfect love can encounter reality and overcome it. Nor is it some universal idea of love, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this.
On silent theology:
We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state [Nazi Germany] is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?
(As in the United States, or most any other country, Nazi Germany did not mind what people claimed to believe regarding Jesus as long as they privately kept it to themselves, did not speak out against national and political injustice, or take any action to oppose party policies. Private faith that stays private and never ventures to put it into action bothers very few. Christians who don't live out their faith in the public arena really concern no one.)
On Christ's ultimate command to follow Him:
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
Many around the world know what Bonhoeffer meant by that last quote. And surely -- if current trends continue -- we may also come to know what it means here in the U.S. in the not-so-far-off future. Then we will be forced to count the cost. For the call to come to Christ in faith is a call to lose ourselves in His service, and in doing so, truly find ourselves -- and what it is that life is truly all about.
In the Bonds of Christian Service, Pastor Jeff