Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood what it was to take up the cross and follow Jesus, even if it meant stepping out of the norm of what Christians were expected to do. As a young pastor and seminary professor in Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer knew that Hitler’s regime was setting up an idol to be worshipped, realizing that the German Christian community was getting hookwinked by the Nazis. Why did this Christian pacifist turn into a co-conspirator attempting to assassinate Hitler?
The following blog post from our church’s Lenten series reflects on the cost of discipleship that Bonhoeffer had to calculate. Granted, I am painting the standard portrait of part of Bonhoeffer’s life. Questions still abound: Was Bonhoeffer right in what he did in trying to assassinate Hitler? (One of my theological heroes, T.F. Torrance, says “NO”, biographer Eric Metaxas says “YES”). At least one historian disputes that Bonhoeffer ever gave up his pacifist beliefs at all! Did he abandon his evangelical faith in the Tegel prison, accusing the evangelical church with being complicit with genocide? Or was he strengthened in his faith through his ordeal for the sake of the Gospel? The definitive answers to these questions remain buried in some unmarked grave at the Flossenburg concentration camp.
As an introduction, author Jim Belcher gives us a glimpse of a trip he took with his family to visit the concentration camp at Flossenburg, where Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent his final twelve hours…
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not able to sleep very well for nights.
Bonhoeffer had just arrived in New York in 1939. At the urging of
friends, the young German evangelical theologian was able to cross the
Atlantic ocean, giving him sanctuary from the impending doom that
would become World War 2, as instigated by Hitler and the German Nazi
movement. In the safety of good fellowship, Bonhoeffer would have
been spared the terrors of war and enjoy a life of relative ease.
Yet Bonhoeffer was troubled in his soul.
The difficulty was that Bonhoeffer knew that the lives of European
Jews were in dreadful danger. Two years earlier, he had written a book
entitled, The Cost of Discipleship. This book was an
extended exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7, part
of the focus of our sermon…
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