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“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together17.


by Justin Taylor:

Bonhoeffer on What a Christian Under the Cross Can Offer that a Secular Therapist Cannot

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together:

Whoever lives beneath the cross of Jesus, and has discerned in the cross of Jesus the utter ungodliness of all people and of their own hearts, will find there is no sin that can ever be unfamiliar.

Whoever has once been appalled by the horror of their own sin, which nailed Jesus to the cross, will no longer be appalled by even the most serious sin of another Christian; rather they know the human heart from the cross of Jesus.

Such persons know how totally lost is the human heart in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin—and know too that this same heart is accepted in grace and mercy.

Only another Christian who is under the cross can hear my confession. It is not experience with life but experience of the cross that makes one suited to hear confession. The most experienced judge of character knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the cross of Jesus.

For the rest of the post…

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer decided to return to Germany from New York City, he said he had obtained “an important insight for all future decisions.” The problem is that we d no not know what that “insight” was.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Yet a precise justification for the decision is no where to be found. Instead there are a plurality of concerns: his desire to be in contact with friends in the Confessing Church in Germany, the need to share in the suffering of his people, possibilities for participation in the reconstruction of German life after the war, the joy of “working at home,” and finally “the other; that I am trying to suppress,” a cryptic allusion that seems to reveal already his intent to enter the resistance. Bonhoeffer can name “reasons” easily if asked, but these seem inadequate to him. He seems unable to summon forth the deepest reason and assign a name to it.

Perhaps that is because it is a decision of faith, or a decision of the heart, emanating more from character than from rational calculation. Inwardly, in a storm of soul, Bonhoeffer had become aware that his current path (remaining in America) was not the path of discipleship as he had come to understand it. At least at this moment, the path of discipleship was heading away from a land of academic opportunities.   

 (Craig J. SlaneBonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment20-21).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

…there might have been an old man in Bonhoeffer!

 (Craig J. SlaneBonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment, 20).

But would he have the same influence on the church and world?

Probably not!

Bonhoeffer’s bourgeois heritage and keen intellect could easily overpower others. Measured by almost any index he was a rich man. His father was an esteemed professor at Berlin University. The child Dietrich lived in the luxurious Grunewald district at Berlin, attended by a cadre of household employees: a tutor, a nanny, a housemaid, a cook, a receptionist for his father, and a chauffeur. His family had contacts at the highest levels of German society. But he was perceptive enough to know that earthly riches make one less secure, not more. He suspected God is nearer to those who have need. And so his heritage became a kind of burden to be overcome. If he were to live a life devoted to Christ, pride and power would have to be monitored on a continual basis.

 (Craig J. SlaneBonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment19)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I first encountered the “real” Bonhoeffer, I was smitten, provoked, and held captive by the riddle: is it possible for someone who planned treasonous and murderous acts to be honored as a martyr?

 (Craig J. SlaneBonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment11)

July 2020


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