It isn’t very often when I get pockets of time to read a book, so when those moments do roll around, I savor them. I recently finished a fantastic book called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I found it informative, edifying, encouraging, and as an added bonus, it was a real page-turner! I simply couldn’t put it down.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young theologian with a deep and abiding faith in the Lord. He lived in Germany during both world wars. He became a spy and was involved in a plot to kill Hitler during World War II. What I encountered in this book that I have never read anywhere else is a history of what was going on in the church (both German and worldwide) during this time in history.
There are many lessons that I took away from the book, many of which I already knew but served as excellent reminders. I will share three here:
Know what you stand for - In the early 1900's, the church in Germany was strongly connected with the government. The Kaiser was the authority of both church and state. When Germany was defeated in World War I, things began to fall apart. Kaiser Wilhelm was forced to abdicate, and the country was plunged into revolution and chaos. The church began to flounder and succumb to outside influences and doctrines. At all times, but especially during times of turmoil and crisis, it is important for God’s people to remain rooted in the Word. We must know what it says and allow it to speak to and through our hearts.
Stand for what you believe in - During his rise to power, Hitler introduced National Socialism into the picture. The lines between true faith and faith as a part of nationalism began to blur. Bonhoeffer joined with other theologians to write what is known as the Bethel Confession. The purpose of the Confession was to clearly spell out the basics of the true and historic Christian faith. His draft was sent to other theologians for comments and feedback. “By the time they were through, every bright line was blurred; every sharp edge of difference filed down; and every point blunted. Bonhoeffer was so horrified that he refused to work on the final draft. When it was completed, he refused to sign it. As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents.” (p. 185). Time and time again throughout this book, the point was made that Dietrich never saw his life as his own. He surrendered and completely submitted every aspect of his life (and even his death) to the Lord. Our lives are not our own. We must be willing to take a clear and definite stand, regardless of the personal cost.
Remain focused - Bonhoeffer was often frustrated with his peers. They were more focused on defeating the enemy in front of them, rather than on what God’s will was for them in the situation. “While Hildebrandt, Niemoller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Muller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead.” (p. 196)
There are many powerful lessons to be pondered and learned in this engaging book. It was inspiring to read about the life of an individual who completely submitted and surrendered his life to God, and made it his only goal to live in full obedience to his Creator, even at the cost of his life. After finishing the book, I immediately ordered The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I'm looking forward to reading it!
I give this book 5 stars and two thumbs up…a must read!