Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Echo from Bonhoeffer

I have long admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so much so that my wife and I named our son in his honor. I'm currently reading a recent biography of his life—no, not the one by Eric Metaxas, although I have read that one as well and have definite thoughts about it, but the one written by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen. In today's reading I came across a citation from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his oldest brother Karl Friedrich in 1935 in which he says:

“I think I am right in saying that I would only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone lies the force that can blow all this hocus-pocus [he was referring to Naziism] sky-high – like fireworks, leaving only a few burnt-out shells behind...Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.

In these words I hear Bonhoeffer saying in 1935 much the same thing that Kathy Escobar and others are saying in 2012. I hear a call to live from the teaching and example of Jesus, particularly as given in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am encouraged by the reminder that Bonhoeffer too recognized that for some things – or against some things – we must take a firm stand. I don't think that Kathy Escobar or any one else needs her words confirmed by the words of someone like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but at the same time I find strength in being reminded that this message resonates throughout the history of God's people. Most of the time, as it was in Bonhoeffer's day, it is the minority voice speaking against the dominant trends of power and the status quo. Unfortunately, now as in his time these voices often dominate the conversation even within the Church. But that should not keep us from speaking out, from standing without compromise for those things – or people – that truly matter. For Bonhoeffer this stand eventually cost him his life. I must confess that I hope such a stand will not be so costly for me, but it will have a cost. Am I willing to pay the price?

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