All Posts Tagged: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Looking at the clear evening sky, David wondered:
Centuries later, another person asked the same question: “Who Am I?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer came of age during Hitler’s reign. Though he quickly became a world renowned theologian, he also founded a small, clandestine seminary, the purpose of which was to train pastors for post-Hitler Germany. Bonhoeffer also played a role in the failed attempt on Hitler’s life (see movie Valkyrie). As a result, he was arrested for crimes against the state. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp.
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
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!
One month before his execution Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I?“ In this poem he expressed bewilderment about his authentic identity. His fellow prisoners perceived him one way. “Am I then really that which other men tell of?” But inwardly, Bonhoeffer saw himself quit differently. “Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.” Amidst the tug of war of identity Bonhoeffer made this affirmation of faith: “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!” The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 makes an identical declaration. “What is your only comfort in life and death? I … (Connection to Jesus) belong ,body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.“
So, for us, the question of identity is only answered in our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. More about that next time.
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Stay joined together with me, and follow my teachings.
If you do this, you can ask for anything you want, and it will be given to you.f
My Father is glorified by this:
that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
“…That you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.” These words are in stark contrast to the statistics noted in the last blog! (1% of Christians today take these words seriously!
What accounts for this radical shift from Jesus’ perspicuous command? Historically, what happened that produced this incredible alteration. The answer to these questions will produce invaluable information for the renewal of the old paradigm so clearly presented in both word and deed by Jesus
In church history it’s known as the Constantine Revolution ( 306 to 337 AD). Whereas there was a plethora of changes in the church, I want to focus on a few: 1) following Jesus was traded for going to a church building; (A poll was taken in which this question was asked: “What most distinguishes you as a Christian.” The overwhelming response was: “going to church.”); 2) worship took the place of discipleship. The action of producing fruit and making disciples, the twice repeated marching order of Jesus, was replaced with passive observation, watching the priest “do his thing“. 3) following Jesus was traded for belief in Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s comment highlights the point: “The response of the disciples was an act of obedience to follow Jesus, NOT a confession of faith in Jesus. (“After Constantine emperors had a duty to help the Church define orthodoxy and maintain orthodoxy. The Church generally regarded the definition of doctrine as the responsibility of the bishops; the emperor’s role was to enforce doctrine.“) [Constantine the Great and Christianity]; 4) the priesthood of all believers (following Jesus to make disciples) was replaced by the professional clergy (priests) [a glaring contrast to the motley crew to which Jesus entrusted his enterprise] ; 5) the command to all believers to “follow and produce fruit” was transferred to missionaries (the word means “sent ones“).
By the end of the 3rd century the preceding was the norm! Today, visit 100 American churches of whatever flavor. In everyone you will find the effects of the Constantine Revolution! The Master’s plan has been totally replaced.
You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.
I have set you apart for the work of bringing in fruit. Your fruit should last.
Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee.
He saw Simon and his brother Andrew putting a net into the sea. They were fishermen.
Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!”
At once they left their nets and followed Him.
“Whoever serves me must follow me.
My servants must be with me everywhere I am.
My Father will give honor to anyone who serves me.”
“You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.” In theological circles this is called “the Doctrine of Election.” It has been hotly debated since the Reformation. However, because it’s beyond my “pay grade” I shall only focus on the words above.
Mark this! The first words Jesus spoke to his disciples were “Follow me!” Jesus’ “choosing“ meant “following“, two sides of the same coin. The singular purpose of the coin is: “I will make you fish for men!” and “I have set you apart for the work of bringing in fruit.” Furthermore, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” Note the MUST! One can’t serve Jesus without following. To use Jack Nicholson’s noted words in A Few Good Men, I think this is “Crystal Clear”!
This is critical for the Kingdom in the western world so I shall be repetitious. Given the primary action of the church today, one would have guessed that Jesus said something like this. The “choosing” is for the sake of “coming.” And the primary purpose is worship. Interestingly, Jesus never said to worship him. People indeed did worship him (Matthew 14:32-33); nonetheless, he never gave that as a primary command! What he did say is this: “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him.” (John 4:23-24) Is this picking at gnats? Observe these words: “You are Peter, and I can guarantee that on this rock I will BUILD my church.” (Matthew 16:18) Jesus was about gathering living stones for his building project. “You are to be as living stones in the building God is making.“ (1 Peter 2:5) Note the similarity between what Jesus said to Peter and what Peter later said to the church! Obviously, Peter never forgot to “make the main thing the main thing!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer matured in Hitler’s Germany. He was a premier pastor/theologian. He was a Lutheran and a pacifist. As Hitler advanced Bonhoeffer saw that he was like a drug, selling a little addiction at a time. In light of the fact that the Lutheran Church swallowed Hitler’s lure “hook, line and sinker”, Bonhoeffer was painfully forced to evaluate his mother church. Mind you, Bonhoeffer was a committed churchman of highest repute.
However, above all he was committed to the scriptures. And so, reading the Gospels afresh, he was confronted by the stark difference between “following Jesus” and being a “coming to church” member. You may think this trite; however, I assure for Bonhoeffer it was a matter of life and death. He participated in the failed assassination attempt of Hitler (see the movie Valkyrie). For his participation he was hanged in 1945 at Flossenburg, only days before the American liberation of the POW camp.
The Cost of Discipleship was Bonhoeffer’s response amidst this tumultuous time. This is not the reflection of a theologian, sitting in the hallowed walls of a seminary. Quite the contrary, Bonhoeffer was knee deep in the quest for freedom from the monster. Most of all, it was a call to the Lutheran Church to follow Jesus rather than Hitler. This is what he wrote. “Grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace 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 a man the only true life.” On the other hand, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship!” In other words, Bonhoeffer saw that, in the midst of the fray, what is most important is “following Jesus” rather than merely “going to church“!
You may think this superficially simplistic! I guarantee: neither for Jesus nor Bonhoeffer was that the case!
God gave us eternal life; this life is in His Son.
“So, whoever has the Son has life;
whoever rejects the Son, rejects life.
1 John 5:11-12
Imagine a solid gold table lamp. It has a cord at the end of which is a plug designed for connection to an energized receptacle. However, the expensive lamp is UNplugged. It can be seen and handled. But, from the perspective of purpose the gadget is LIFE-LESS! It merely exists. Everything changes when the cord is plugged in. Energized the lamp fulfills its purpose. The conclusion is simple: connection means power for purpose whereas separation signifies a lifeless existence.
“God gave us eternal [living at 100% satisfaction] life; this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:11) Provided by the Maker, Jesus is the source of power uniquely generated for humankind. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry….” (John 6:35) “God invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline. It would not run properly on anything else. God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn,” (Mere Christianity, p 50)
“So, whoever has the Son has life….” (1 John 5:12) “Jesus said to the fishermen, ‘Come, follow ME!’ At once they left and went with Him.” (Matthew 4:19) “When we are called to follow Jesus, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person” (Cost of Discipleship, p 49)
“Jesus came into the created universe, bringing with him new life. Everyone who gets it gets it by personal contact with Him” (C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity). (Mere Christianity, p 221)
Getting connected to others via phone, computer, car, train, or plane is costly. Attachment to your Maker is free of charge! Just get connected to Jesus. But wait! There’s more. You’ll also receive LGS without charge! It’s an offer you can’t refuse!