4 10 2013

Who better to face the greatest evil of the 20th century than a humble man of faith? That is the sobering question that graces the back of the book that I just finished reading. I couldn’t put it down because its words were lifting my spirit up to new heights! The biography that I just devoured is called “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. It is the story of one of the most amazing of men who wouldn’t stay silent when atrocities were being committed by a government bent on destroying a whole Jewish People. This man of God was named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The example that he modeled for all of us who call ourselves Christians is a holy necessity! We need to pay close attention to his life and more than just take written notes- we must be ready to actually walk in the way he paved before us and be willing to pay the cost of discipleship that would mean spending his life for the gospel to stay the true gospel!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Germany in 1906. Dietrich was one of eight children born to Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer, and the youngest of five boys. His father Karl was chair of the department of psychology at the University of Berlin–in effect, the leading psychologist of Germany. His mother Paula’s family included military leaders and theologians, including her grandfather, the prominent liberal church historian Karl August von Hase, and her father Karl Alfred, the chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Dietrich studied theology although his father had wished differently for him. But it was soon evident that Bonhoeffer’s pursuit of God went much deeper than just the intellect. Dietrich was convinced that religion alone without a genuine relationship with the Lord was nothing more than “cheap grace.” Bonhoeffer said, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

He left the safety of hiding in America to return to his volatile homeland as the ugliness of World War II was hitting its zenith. On returning to the danger in Germany- people didn’t see fear but saw within him a man passionately committed to his family, his friends and his people! And Dietrich knew that his pilgrimage in fighting for freedom could very well result in death! When someone asked Bonhoeffer whether he shouldn’t join the recognized “German Church” in order to work against them from within, he answered that he couldn’t. “If you board the wrong train,” he said, “it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.” He boldly spoke out and continued to preach the whole truth of the word of God even though doing so caused him to guarantee his own death warrant being signed. Bonhoeffer would not back down when it came to publicly calling out the crimes against humanity that the Nazis were busily involved in!

Most of Bonhoeffer’s work in the 1930s and 40s was professorial and pastoral. He helped found the “Confessing Church,” which was formed to oppose the Nazification of the state church. He helped found and lead the Confessing Church’s underground seminary at Finkenwalde. And throughout this time, he wrote what have become classics in theology and spiritual formation: “Life Together,” “The Cost of Discipleship,” and “Ethics” which he completed toward the end of his life.

But all along, he was drawn increasingly into the conspiracy against Hitler. This led to his arrest in 1943. On July 20, 1944, General Claus von Stauffenberg placed an explosive device under a table at a meeting with Hitler. The explosion killed several people, although Hitler lived, scathed but otherwise unharmed. Bonhoeffer was already in prison, although his role in this conspiracy wouldn’t become known for some time. In a sense, Bonhoeffer was a prophet who foresaw where Hitler’s regime would lead Germany, and counseled more radical action than the conservative German’s traditional leaders–religious, military, or civil–could tolerate, until of course it was too late.

On the morning of April 9, 1945, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at The Flossenburg concentration camp. The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung, later remembered, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to God, so certain that God heard his prayer. I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” Others testified that up to his last day, the 39 year old Bonhoeffer remained cheerful. He knew what he had to do, was reconciled to God’s will, and was able to climb the steps to the gallows “brave and composed.”

In a day where so much of what we read coming out from the inspirational section of our book stores deals only with us making possible our own happiness and comfort, and when “ego and flesh” seem to take precedence over “sacrifice and spirit,” it was refreshing to read about an individual who loved God so much that he was willing to give everything he had for the greater good of others over himself! I highly recommend this book to anyway who is seeking more from church than just the goal of a good time! I close with these words from Dietrich himself, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety…Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

Let Pastor Rudy know what you think by writing him



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