Dietrich Bonhoeffer— (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned, and eventually hanged just before the end of the World War II in Europe.
Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.
But to deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however sight that deviation may be. It is not our judgment of the situation which can show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God. Here alone lies the promise of God’s faithfulness and help. It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity.
The only thing we take with us is our obedience
True mortification of our carnal nature is not a simple matter of denial and discipline. It is an internal, spiritual matter of finding more contentment in Christ than in food.
The flesh resists this daily humiliation, first by a frontal attack, and later by hiding itself under the words of the Spirit (i.e., in the name of “evangelical liberty”). We claim liberty from all legal compulsions, from self-martyrdom and mortification and play this off against the proper evangelical use of discipline and asceticism; we thus excuse our self-indulgence and irregularity in prayer, in meditation and in our bodily life. But the contrast between our behavior and the word of Jesus is all too painfully evident. We forget that discipleship means estrangement from the world, and we forget the real joy and freedom which are the outcome of a devout rule of life.
When Christ calls a man, “he bids him come and die,” there are different kinds of dying, it is true; but the essence of discipleship is contained in those words
Man must follow him who has served and passed through this world as the living , the dying and the risen Lord. Therefore, wherever it pleases God to put man in this world, the Christina must be ready for martyrdom and death. It is only in this way that man learns faith.
When a man really gives up trying to make something out of him-self-a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman, a righteous or unrighteous man…when in the fullness of tasks, questions, success or ill-hap, experiences and perplexities, a man throws himself into the arms of God…then he wakes with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, that is metanoia and it is thus that he becomes a man and Christian. How can a man wax arrogant if in a this-sided life he shares the suffering of God?”
(Cheap Grace and Costly Grace) Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessing with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Give me such love for God and men, as will blot out all hatred and bitterness… A Christian is someone who shares the suffering of God in the world.
Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom
“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (‘Life Together’)
Happy are they who know that discipleship simple means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship
Lord Jesus, come yourself, and dwell with us, be human as we are, and overcome what overwhelms us. Come into the midst of my evil, come close to my unfaithfulness. Share my sin, which I hate and which I cannot leave. Be my brother, Thou Holy God. Be my brother in the kingdom of evil and suffering and death. Come with me in my death, come with me in my suffering, come with me as I struggle with evil. And make me holy and pure, despite my sin and death.
“Who am I?
This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me,
these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.”
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living Word, the Word of God, which God speaks as it pleases God. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a person to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (A Testament to Freedom 308)
Is the price we are paying today with the collapse of the organized churches anything else but an inevitable consequence of grace acquired too cheaply? We gave away preaching and sacraments cheaply; we performed baptisms and confirmations; we absolved an entire people, unquestioned and unconditionally; out of human love we handed over what was holy to the scornful and unbelievers. We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard. What happened to the insights of the ancient church, which in the baptismal teaching watches so carefully over the boundary between the church and the world, over costly grace? What happened to Luther’s warning against a proclamation of the gospel which made people secure in their godless lives? When was the world ever Christianized more dreadfully and wickedly than here?…The biblical wisdom that the sin of the fathers are visited on the children unto the third and fourth generation has become true in us. Cheap grace was very unmerciful to our Protestant church.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Discipleship 53-54)
Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living lies and hypocrisy….He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.
“Without Christ we should not know God, we could not call upon Him, nor come to Him. But without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor could we come to him. The way is blocked by our own ego. Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (‘Life Together’)
“All we may rightly expect from God, and ask him for is to be found in Jesus Christ…If we are to learn what God promises…we must persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, sufferings, and death of Jesus…it is certain that our joy is hidden in suffering, and our life in death; it is certain that in all this we are in a fellowship that sustains us…You must never doubt that I am travelling in gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I am being led.”
Whether we have started with all on our lists or are prepared for the company on its way, Advent reminds us that Christmas will come. Christmas will come because Christ has come, because Christ is coming. What kind of reception will we offer when he breaks in?
“Human love is directed to the other person for his own sake. Spiritual love loves others for Christ’s sake”
“Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
“In our meditation we ponder the chosen text on the strength of the promise that it has something utterly personal to say to us for this day and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s Word for the Church, but also God’s Word for us individually. We expose ourselves to the specific word until it addresses us personally. And when we do this, we are doing no more than the simplest, untutored Christian does every day; we read God’s Word as God’s Word for us.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together)
Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways. Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it. That is the only way to hear his word. But again he does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (‘Cost of Discipleship’)
The weaknesses, sins and afflictions of my brother and sisters effect each one of us. We bear with one another
The unity of the Christian church is not based on human unanimity of spirit, but on divine unity of Spirit
“You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers you can dare to be a sinner”
“the Church is only the church when it exists for others”
“The Church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating but helping and serving others”
Christ is at the center of life and history. How does he exercise his Lordship today? Though powerlessness, service and the cross
“Christ is not the bringer of a new religion, but the bringer of God.”
“Jesus does not call men to a new religion, but to life.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (‘Papers from Prison’)
“The Gospel must be lived out not individually, but in community.”
Sunset Forgiveness… It is an old custom of the monasteries that by set practice in the daily evening worship the abbot asks his brothers to forgive him for all the sins of omission and wrongdoings committed against them. After the brothers assure him of their forgiveness, they likewise ask the abbot to forgive them for their sins of omission and wrongdoings and receive his forgiveness. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). It is a decisive rule of every Christian community that every division that the day has caused must be healed in the evening. It is perilous for the Christians to go to bed with an un-reconciled heart. Therefore, it is a good idea especially to include the request for mutual forgiveness in every evening’s prayers, so that reconciliation can be achieved and renewal of the community established.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together
The first service we owe to one another is to learn to listen to them
“To be simple is to fix one’s eye solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted, and turned upside-down”
“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.”
Only the obedient believe. If we are to believe, we must obey a concrete command. Without this preliminary step of obedience, our faith will only be pious humbug, and lead us to the grace which is not costly. Everything depends on the first step. It has a unique quality of its own. The first step of obedience makes Peter leave his nets, and later get out of the ship; it calls upon the young man to leave his riches. Only this new existence, created through obedience, can make faith possible.
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. 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 if for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won where the way leads to the cross
“Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?”
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”