Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap Grace… Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Bonhoeffer: Who stands firm?

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“When Christ Calls A Man…”

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I first heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer after my marriage to Ukali in 1994.  His father had given him “The Cost of Discipleship” by Bonhoeffer, and that book radically impacted his understanding of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The book did not replace God’s Word, but it worked in conjunction with, or alongside of it to ‘sure up’ the foundation he had, and to further define what authentic Christianity looked like, and Dietrich’s legacy has helped to do the same for me. It has given me great pleasure during the last couple of years to introduce Dietrich and his legacy to our children through homeschooling.  My husband was searching for “The Cost of Discipleship”  this morning (not the one his father gave him…he loaned that copy years ago and never got it back, then another, then another…this is the most recent copy that we gave him last Christmas :D), and he couldn’t find it because it was in our 13-year-old sons reading pile!  I couldn’t help but smile…my son was reading “The Cost of Discipleship”…and I thought to myself that if I was in introduced to and learned about him in my 20’s, and they in their teens and preteens, how old (or young) will my grandchildren be when they meet him for the first time.  The strength of conviction about gaining and maintaining a Biblical Worldview found within the pages of this book are life-changing.  This also caused me to think about the fact that there are so many great things that are not taught in schools…so many great people who, if we leave it up to the schools, our kids will never learn about.  With so many changes taking place in the educational system of our country and on their focus, let’s commit to teaching our children, through our actions and words, as well as God’s word and the lives of others, what morality and integrity and humility and character look like.  If all they have is erroneous history books and this fallen world’s idols to look at, they may never see it. In writing this, I also understand that there are some who have never had the blessing of being introduced to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and if that is you, read on :D. There’s just a little history…a summary of his life if you will…that I hope will spark a desire to know more about him, and even to purchase some of his books or get them from your local library. For those of you who are already acquainted, enjoy the ‘brief’ summation and renew your relationship with this humble servant of Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, and was murdered on Hitlers orders in 1945.  He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was a devoted pacifist, who believed that the way of Christ and violence were in direct opposition to each other.  It was this heartfelt belief that caused him much inner turmoil as he learned of and witnessed the obscenely horrendous violations against humanity, specifically Jews and blacks, that were being administered by Hitler and his Nazi Regime.  Dietrich ultimately concluded that to sit back and do nothing was even more egregious than to join the fight against it, knowing that violence against Hitler would be involved.  So Bonhoeffer joined the German Resistance Movement against Nazism.  His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler were discovered, and led to his arrest in April 1943, and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war’s end. During the two years that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel, he kept a daily routine of Bible Reading, Prayer, and singing many hymns that he had memorized.  He spent 18 months in a room that was 6×9, “with a bed, a stool, a shelf,  a blanket and a bucket.” The room was sealed with “a board door with an observation hole that looked from the outside in, and a skylight window above head height on the opposite side.”  During the two years that he was interrogated he was permitted to have visitors and receive letters.  He frequently wrote to his parents to reassure them that he was doing well and did not want them to worry.

While imprisoned, and fully aware of the torture and persecution that awaited him, Bonhoeffer feared that the intensity of the torture may cause him to ‘give up’ his friends and co-laborers in the Gospel as well as The Resistance. He considered suicide as a way out, and on a piece of paper which had survived his first weeks in prison, he wrote, “Suicide, not because of consciousness of guilt, but basically, because I am already dead.”  Had Dietrich given in to this temptation, he would have missed the joy he found in ministering the Gospel to those who were sick and dying in chains as he was, as well as those charged with guarding the prisoners.  He was respectfully referred to as “The Prisoners Pastor.”  Dietrich worked diligently to provide comfort and discipleship to those held captive by the Nazis, although he had a chance to escape, aided by a guard, he refused for fear that more of his family and co-laborers would suffer for him.  In October 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the Gestapo prison in Berlin. In February 1945, he was taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and then to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he was hanged on April 9, 1945.  He was 39 years old, had never married, and served the Lord in faithfulness until his death.  His final recorded words;  “This is the end…for me, the beginning of life.” Three weeks after Hitler orderd the death of Dietrich, and all of those viewed as enemies of the state, it is believed that Hitler himself committed suicide.

Well, that’s it.  That’s his story in a nutshell, but trust me, there is soooo much more to the story!! This history is great to share with your family or your children.  I pray that this has been informative and encouraging!  If you are new to Bonhoeffer, please let me know and share what you learn.  If you have been previously introduced, please let me know what has impacted you most about his life and legacy.  For more information please check out the following resources;