“The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, ‘Where is your salvation, your righteousness?’, he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together22.

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“Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the ‘roses and lilies’ of the Christian life.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together21.

Image Via Shutterstock

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian most known for his book The Cost of Discipleship and his involvement in the plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, suffered a great deal at the hands of the Nazis, including his eventual execution. In the summer of 1937, just as the Gestapo was arresting Bonhoeffer’s friends, the pastor preached about God’s judgment in Psalm 58 — but he didn’t say what a modern American might expect.

“The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth. … O God, break their teeth in their mouths; pull the fangs of the young lions, O LORD. Let them vanish like water that runs off; let the arrows they aim break in two. … The righteous will be glad when they see the vengeance; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked. And they will say, ‘Surely, there is a reward for the righteous, surely, there is a God who rules in the earth'” (Psalm 58:3, 6-7, 10-11).

So how did Bonhoeffer, a Christian who lost his life trying to assassinate Hitler, apply this verse to his own life? Did he rail against Hitler’s evil? Not exactly. (For the full letter, read Meditating on the Word, a compilation of Bonhoeffer’s works compiled and translated by David McI. Gracie.)

“Is this fearful psalm of vengeance to be our prayer? May we pray in this way? Certainly not! We bear much guilt of our own for the action of any enemies who cause us suffering,” Bonhoeffer declared in a sermon on July 11, 1937

This message is powerful, given what had happened to Bonhoeffer in the months — and even days — before. In January 1936, he lost his grandmother — who defied a Nazi boycott of Jews by shoving through brownshirts to buy strawberries from a Jew. Throughout 1937, the Gestapo carried out interrogations, house searches, confiscations, and arrests against Bonhoeffer’s seminary students. Ten days before this sermon, they arrested his friend and fellow pastor Martin Niemöller (the man famous for the “first they came for the Jews …” poem).

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Marvin OlaskyVOICES Marvin Olasky

Beyond politics

Evaluating accusations of sexual misconduct

The past two days have brought more Roy Moore accusers, but the big news is the new front in the sexual predator wars: Washington, with accusations against Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that contain photographic evidence. This development shows how the current cultural moment can be a positive one for a Biblical sexual ethic—if we don’t let short-term considerations overwhelm our theology.

Two thousand years ago the New Testament displayed a pro-woman outlook. In opposition to Rome’s condescension to women as property, the Gospels and the Book of Acts show them, like men, as made in God’s image and worthy of respect. Women followed Jesus, witnessed the empty tomb, and were central in the formation of early churches. The Apostle Paul told men to love and defend their wives and not treat them as sexual playthings or kitchen help who could be dismissed for burning dinner.

Over the past week the spotlight on sexual predators moved from Hollywood and New York to Alabama, but that’s a temporary stopping point on the road to Washington. I’ve only spent a not-so-grand total of about three years in D.C., but even I have heard of the sexual harassment and more that young women face there. It’s important for evangelicals not to defend un-Biblical treatment of women but to expose and reduce it.

We can’t do that if in every instance we calculate whether it will work to our immediate political detriment. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem did that regarding President Bill Clinton in 1998. She acknowledged in a New York Times column on March 22, 1998, that “President Clinton may be a candidate for sex addiction therapy. But feminists will still have been right to resist pressure by the right wing and the media to call for his resignation or impeachment.”

Steinem said the Monica Lewinsky affair really did not count, despite Lewinsky’s age and the power differential, because she welcomed the attention. Regarding Clinton’s attack on Kathleen Willey, Steinem said he “made a gross, dumb and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

Steinem concluded by saying it didn’t even matter that Clinton lied under oath, because “we have a responsibility to make it O.K. for politicians to tell the truth—providing they are respectful of ‘no means no; yes means yes’—and still be able to enter high office, including the Presidency. Until then, we will disqualify energy and talent the country needs.”

Liberal social critic Caitlin Flanagan wrote earlier this week in The Atlantic that “The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton. The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles.”

And that returns us to a central question concerning U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore: We still don’t know whether he did what he’s accused of, but some WORLD members have told me that if he made passes at young women and tried to get physical with some but gave up when they pushed him away, so what? In other words—and keeping in mind differences between the accusations against Moore and those against Clinton—some conservative evangelicals are now acting toward Moore as feminists acted toward Bill Clinton.

Again, I have no problem with those who thoughtfully consider all the evidence. My concern is with those who say the evidence doesn’t matter because Republicans MUST win this election.

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“It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with other Christian brethen.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together20.

But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother (or sister with sister), how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together20.

The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together19.

Associated Press/Photo by Nell Redmond (file)

November 6 at 8:55 AM


Mourners attend a candle light vigil after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., on Nov. 5. (Joe Mitchell/Reuters)

While millions of other Christians were singing hymns or opening their Bibles or taking communion this past Sunday, at that very moment, a gunman was opening fire on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Tex. This, believed to be the largest church shooting in history, ended with at least 26 people killed, according to authorities.

Several children were among the fallen, including pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle. Whatever the shooter’s twisted objective might have been, we do know this: It won’t work.

The goal the gunman sought, to terrorize worshipers, has been attempted constantly over the centuries around the world by cold, rational governments and terrorist groups — all thinking that they could, by the trauma of violence, snuff out churches, or at least intimidate those churches into hiding from one another. Such violent tactics always end up with the exact opposite of what the intimidators intend: a resilient church that, if anything, moves forward with even more purpose than before. Why

Whether they are crazed loners in the United States or jihadist cells in Syria or governing councils in the old Soviet bloc, these forces fundamentally misunderstand the source of Christianity’s strength in the first place. Killers assume, after all, that gunfire or poison gas or mass beheadings will show Christians how powerless we are. That is true. They assume that this sense of powerlessness will rob the community of its will to be the church. That is false.

If they looked overhead, in almost any of the churches they attempt to destroy, these killers might see what they miss: the cross.

The church was formed against the threat of terror. Jesus himself stood before a Roman governor who told him that the state had the authority to kill him, in the most horrific way possible — staking him to a crossbeam to bleed slowly to death before a jeering crowd. That’s, of course, exactly what Pilate did— and the empire’s intimidation seemed to work, at first.

Most of Jesus’ core followers went into hiding, out of fear that they would be endangered next. That’s exactly what crosses were designed to do: Their public display was to warn people that they could be the next in line

The very ones who scattered, though, soon returned, testifying that they had seen the crucified Jesus alive. The result was an open proclamation of the Christian message that led to thousands joining themselves to the tiny persecuted movement. Within a matter of centuries, the terrorists themselves, the Roman Empire, would be gone, with the church marching forward into the future.

The reason was not that the church came to believe that they could find safety in the threats of violence. The reason was that the church came to conclude, in the midst of the violence, that death is not the endpoint.

Much of the New Testament is made up of letters from the apostles of Jesus on why the cross is, counterintuitively, the power of God. The Christian gospel does not cower before death. Those who give their lives in witness to Christ are not helpless victims, in our view. In fact, the Book of Revelation maintains that those who are martyred are in fact ruling with Christ. This is not in spite of the fact that they are killed. They triumph even as they are killed. That’s because they are joined to a Christ who has been dead, and never will be again

The day of the shooting was, for many churches, a day of remembrance for the persecuted church. Christians do not see as victims those around the world who are rooted out of their churches, even lined up and executed. We see in them the power Jesus promised us: the power that is made perfect in weakness.

To eradicate churches, our opponents will need a better strategy.

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“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together19.

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