Dargan Thompson

FEBRUARY 6, 2014

Dargan is a writer and editor who loves music, traveling and deep conversations. She also loves grammar and is one of the editors at RELEVANT. You can follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter@darganthompson.

The famed theologian’s birthday would have been this week, so here’s some of his timeless wisdom

Initially, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s parents discouraged him from studying theology.

The Bonhoeffers were an upper-middle class German family of doctors and scientists, so going into ministry was not thought to be a fitting profession for their sixth child.

It’s a good thing for the modern Church that Bonhoeffer was determined in his course. There’s no doubt that Bonhoeffer, who was born 108 years ago this week, is one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.

Bonhoeffer’s thoughts are powerful in and of themselves, but even more so in the context of his circumstances. As a pastor in Germany in the era between WWI and WWII, he saw firsthand the subtle shifts in the German church and the German consciousness.

Many of Bonhoeffer’s actions seem nonsensical when viewed with an objective eye. He split from the German Church to form the Confessing Church, he got involved in an assassination plot (against Hitler), he returned to Germany from the safety of the U.S. right before the war reached its worst. But put all together, they reveal the story of a man of great conviction, who was willing to go against the norm and undergo suffering for his people and for the God he was committed to following. He was a man who, by the end of his life, really understood the cost of discipleship that he famously wrote about.

Bonhoeffer was killed at a concentration camp just a few months after his 39th birthday, but his legacy continues. Even today, almost 60 years after his death, Bonhoeffer’s life is a challenge to us all to pursue justice even when it’s not popular, to care for and defend the persecuted and to relentlessly follow God’s leading.

He had much wisdom to share—his numerous books are not the easiest reads, but are well worth reading in full—but for now, here are 12 of his quotes that are sure to give you some food for thought:


“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― The Cost of Discipleship“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”
Letters and Papers from Prison

“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.”

“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”

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