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“Here one soul operates directly upon another soul. The weak have been overcome by the strong, the resistance of  the weak has been broken down under the influence of another person. He has been overpowered, but not won over by the thing itself…Here is where the humanly converted person breaks down and thus makes it evident that his conversion was effected, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a man, and therefore has no stability.”

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together33.

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“The community of the Spirit is the fellowship of those who are called by Christ; human community of the spirit is the fellowship of devout souls. In the community of brotherly service, “agape”; in the human community of spirit there glows the dark love of good and evil desire, “eros”. In the former there is orderly, brotherly service, in the latter disordered desire for pleasure; in the former humble subjection to the brethren, in the latter humble yet haughty subjection of a bother’s to one’s own desires.”

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together31-32.

“The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together30

“May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual  and not a psychic reality.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together26.

“When we received forgiveness instead of judgement, we, too, were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our brotherly love, the less were we living by God’s mercy and love.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together25.

“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this proposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together24.

“But without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor could we come to him. The way is blocked by our ego. Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together, 23.

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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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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.

February 2018
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