Where to find myself in Bonhoeffer’s story.

18951182_10155519444883442_4132200671926882046_nAs a part of our “The Cloud” series I recently taught our faith family a bit about the life and teaching of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The talk mentioned a bit of the religious and political climate that led to Germany embracing Adolf Hitler as their Führer.

As I read about Bonhoeffer’s life and the forces he confronted, I began to wonder how he would respond to the events, issues, and leaders in my lifetime.  My guess is that Bonhoeffer is claimed by all sorts of folks with varying views.  I’ve heard one person apply his life, resistance, and moment in history to the Obama administration and another apply it to the Trump administration.

The challenge with Bonhoeffer is that he is so accessible to so many. You can read about his life, his passions, his beliefs, his story – and everyone seems to find something they can embrace.

He is theologically conservative and firm on who Jesus is, the importance of Scripture, the essentialness of the church and the priority of following Jesus right here and right now into eternity.

But he also was a champion of some causes that often seem to be more focused on by those who prioritize social justice and acting on behalf of the oppressed. Issues like racism, pacifism, non-nationalistic tendencies, and a more global perspective.

Therefore, the temptation is to make him in our own image. It’s easy to read his story and try to apply it to our own political issues of the day. We apply our own perceived Hitler to Bonhoeffer and feel like we are following in his footsteps. We should read his story and seek to apply it where we can in our issues of the day. However, I don’t trust us to do it truthfully or well. We must have the humility to see ourselves in the German church of that day. Some opposed Hitler and the Nazi’s (Confessing Church) and others hitched their wagon to Hitler (the “German Christians”). Perhaps, we need to relate ourselves to them more than to Bonhoeffer.   A number of the churches and the leadership were closely aligned with the politics of the day and followed their leader above following their Lord.

Some were more desirous to grow their national and personal kingdom more than having a vision for God’s kingdom. 

So, instead of quickly applying Bonhoeffer’s story to our own political biases and enemies, I think it’s vital to ground ourselves in Scripture and the life and teachings of Jesus. To learn to truly follow after Jesus even when the path gets uncomfortable or challenges our own views.

I reckon we need fewer Democrats and Republicans with party platforms and more people who declare with their life and their words that Jesus is King. 

2 thoughts on “Where to find myself in Bonhoeffer’s story.

  1. Ok, so I agree with your statement about “less Democrats and Republicans with platforms” , but then how do we balance that with “render under Caesar those things that are Caesars”. ?

    • In that situation there were two groups that were trying to trap Jesus. One group, the Pharisees, were very anti-Rome. The other group, the Herodians, were in bed with Rome to enjoy power and position. Jesus’ response to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s was to make a significant point about giving God back the thing that bears his image: us! Jesus is essentially saying, “Come to your senses! Whose image do you bear? Turn around from compromising with your Roman overlords. Don’t give yourself to Caesar. Give yourself wholly to God!” Jesus was not honoring Rome and encouraging people to pledge allegiance first and foremost to Rome. He was calling on them to pledge allegiance first and foremost to God. Certainly there are passages in the New Testament where followers of Jesus are called on to pray for all of their leaders, seek to live justly in society and follow laws (if they don’t oppose Gods higher law), and to live quiet lives so they would not attract negative attention and be snuffed out by persecution. After all, the worst thing for these early Christians would be to draw attention to themselves and be wiped out before they could spread out! Hopefully that all makes sense 🙂 thanks for reading and commenting!

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