Christians You Should Know: Dietrich Bonhoeffer January 18, 2023


Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

A Snapshot of the Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Born: February 4, 1906, in Breslau, Germany
Died: April 9, 1945, in Flossenburg, Germany
Lutheran martyr who was a pastor and theologian – brilliant in thought and person. Bonhoeffer was  a student pastor in Barcelona (1928-29), studied in the US (1930-31), and criticized Hitler’s abusive dictatorship in 1933. He served at a German church in London (1933-35), then headed seminary for the Confessing Church in Finkenwalde, Germany (1935-37). Authorities banned Bonhoeffer from preaching in 1940 because he was involved in the resistance movement against Hitler. He was arrested by Hitler’s agents in Berlin on April 5, 1943, for his outspoken opposition to German tyranny and for helping smuggle a number of Jews into Switzerland. He was hung immediately after conducting a Sunday worship service for prisoners. While he was preaching, Allied armies were approaching a few miles away. He was engaged to be married at the time of his death. His writings included The Cost of Discipleship (1937), Life Together(1939), and Way to Freedom (1936). His favorite Bible verse was Matthew 16:24. (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

Few people can understand the terrible struggle of conscience endured by believers under the Nazi regime. In today’s western world, the word “Nazi” has become a cheap attack on political ideas someone wishes to harm. But the realities of the Third Reich were terrible and unimaginably dark. Believers in those days had to tackle hard questions. Few, if any, wrestled with their role as a follower of Christ more than Bonhoeffer. He was like the prophets of old – declaring that God’s people must arise in true obedience to Christ! He described this life as a life of discipleship under Christ. “Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer declared, “can tolerate no conditions which might come between Jesus and our obedience to Him.” 

Bonhoeffer believed strongly that each believer must personally and wholeheartedly follow God. His pen still challenges us all: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Truly, Dietrich’s life demonstrated his words. This courageous man was one of the few pastors who took a stand against the evils of Hitler, who risked his life to rescue Jews, and who ultimately gave his life in an effort to stop the evil (Operation Valkryie). To Bonheoffer, the Christian life could not be a mere checklist, it was to be a life of faithful obedience to the Master. Although we may not accept every theological argument he wrote, his life composed a book that ought to challenge every heart.

What about you and me? Is there any area that is being kept back from God? Friend, is there an evil against which God is calling you to stand? Let us dwell on the life of this courageous believer and ask God to show us the next step of obedience. And no matter where the path may go, we must deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow Him!

A Suggestion for Further Reading…

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxes; Thomas Nelson, 2009

The Cost of Discipleship – Deitrich Bonhoeffer, 1937

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  1. Caleb Sink on January 21, 2023 at 10:05 AM

    Compelling account! Makes me take a close look at my life and ask myself am I truly a disciple of Christ! Thanks for sharing and God bless you!

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