“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Some have heard of the name, but many haven’t. Who was he and what did he do?
For the last month or so, I’ve been reading an outstanding biography on Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. This book has been such an inspiration to me to seek the Lord above all else and to stand against evil when it lurks. Dietrich was a German theologian born in 1906 to a prestigious family. He pastored several churches, started and operated two seminaries before they were shut down by the Nazis, wrote countless theological essays and pamphlets (along with a few books), and used his influence and connections with others to impact and guide believers in Germany to stick to the Bible. Bonhoeffer was eventually hanged by the Nazis for his role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The story of his life that leads up to that point is fascinating, and I strongly recommend the book…there isn’t enough space here to write about the whole book, but there were several amazing quotes in there that I wanted to post. The quotes and his story have really motivated me and given me a vision for what it looks like to take leadership among believers and lead them into Spiritual battle against the enemy.
“The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christians.” -p. 69
This was actually the quote that made me want to post about him on our blog. He got it! Like he said, our Christianity shouldn’t just be something we do every Sunday on the side. Rather, it is either 100% or nothing. (Luke 9:23)
“God is free not from human beings but for them. Christ is the word of God’s freedom.” -p. 88
What a great way to summarize His love for us- He isn’t free from us, but He is free for us. What a gift we’ve been given.
“In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.” -p. 99
When Bonhoeffer wrote this, he was in New York visiting America for the first of two times. To say he wasn’t impressed with the church in America would be an understatement. What bugged him the most? That we weren’t preaching the Word. And as believers today, we often get sucked into the same trap, but we need to be making sure that unbelievers are hearing, more than anything, of the gift of salvation and their need for it.
“The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty…before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away; he cannot join us in the house of God…The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned.” -p. 138
These words were preached in 1933 by Bonhoeffer after Hitler had come to power as Chancellor a month earlier. The Germans had been desperate for leadership after their humiliation in World War I and the years afterward, and unfortunately, had looked to man to solve those problems…and very unfortunately, that is how Hitler came to power. They missed the forest for the trees. In this sermon, Bonhoeffer was reminding the church that Christ was above all, and that he was the ultimate authority that all must bow down to. How we need that reminder today!
“If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.” -p. 176
When the Nazis came to power and began to take more and more control, one of the things they went after was the Church. A group called the German Christians tried to serve as the compromising ground for both ends of the spectrum. Bonhoeffer was at the front of the battle against these and against the Nazis who wanted to impose their principles on the Church…at this time, they wanted something called the “Aryan Clause” to be accepted by the leaders of the Church in Germany. This paragraph said that any Jews were prohibited from holding any office in the state, and that extended to churches. Bonhoeffer was asked by some why he wouldn’t join the German Christians and work against them from inside; his response was the quote above.
As I hope you can see, Bonhoeffer was no ordinary man. He was on the front lines engaged in the political battles of his day. He was on the front lines engaged in the struggles within the Church, standing unwavering on the Word of God. If you have time, spend 30 minutes and read about him. His story can’t help but spur you on in your relationship with Christ and in living that relationship with Him out in everything you do.