Just a few weeks ago I finished reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. The book is about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who took on many roles in his life: he was first and foremost a pastor, a spy, and, later on, a martyr.
In this book, Eric painted a picture of Bonhoeffer’s upbringing, schooling, family life, and actions during the World War II. Bonhoeffer is a man who was convinced that the God of the Bible is real, which had very real implications on how one must live.
Without having a foundation of what’s good and bad, it’s easy to follow along with what’s acceptable and not acceptable in society. But because Bonhoeffer trusted God as all knowing of what’s good and evil, he was able to see where Germany was heading towards when so many did not.
“The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully. To try to explain “right” and “wrong”—to talk about ethics—outside of God and obedience to his will is impossible: “Principles are only tools in the hands of God; they will soon be thrown away when they are no longer useful.” We must look only at God, and in him we are reconciled to our situation in the world. If we look only to principles and rules, we are in a fallen realm where our reality is divided from God.”
Throughout the book, I was amazed by Bonhoeffer’s boldness and drive to stay true to the Church. In those days, a new church arose. The German Christians were anti-Jew; they removed the Old Testament from the Bible and they claimed that the New Testament needed to be modified to portray a Jesus who corresponded entirely to National Socialism. To go even further, they claimed that the Church must no longer put an emphasis on the crucified Christ, but instead focus their attention to a heroic Aryan Jesus. In order to combat all of these outrageous changes, Bonhoeffer was at the forefront of separating the real Church of Germany (Confessing Church) from the pro-nazi Reichskirche.
However what may have piqued my interest the most in the book was Bonhoeffer’s confidence in his decision to become a part of the plot to assassinate Hitler–an idea that can sound outrageous to any Christian. Bonhoeffer didn’t impose his decisions on others and didn’t want to create trouble as the Confessing Church was already suffering in the hands of the Nazis. In this decision, he was described to have moved into a very lonely place. To gain others’ confidence, he saluted to Hitler and pledged his allegiance to him — convincing even some people from the Confessing Church that he had gone to the other side.
Eric Metaxas explains Bonhoeffer’s relationship with God so well,
“For Bonhoeffer, the relationship with God ordered everything else around it. A number of times he referred to the relationship with Jesus Christ as being like the cantus firmus of a piece of music. All the other parts of the music referred to it, and it held them together. To be true to God in the deepest way meant having such relationship with him that one did not live legalistically by “rules” or “principles.” One could never separate one’s actions from one’s relationship to God. It was a more demanding and more mature level of obedience, and Bonhoeffer had come to see that the evil of Hitler was forcing Christians to go deeper in their obedience, to think harder about what God was asking. Legalistic religion was being shown to be utterly inadequate.”
Bonhoeffer was confident that he was taking the right step. It’s something I definitely admire him for. Many times I believe that it’s our temptation as Christians to just avoid sin rather than do God’s will. We are reminded that,
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”
Overall, it was a very good read and a huge encouragement to me. I admired Bonhoeffer’s bravery and his faithfulness towards God in the midst of all the terror and confusion within society.
If you’re interested in reading another Christian’s account of World War 2, you can also check out Corrie ten Boom’s book called, The Hiding Place.