For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’ massive and excellent biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy about the German pastor and theologian who was ultimately executed for his collaboration in a plot to kill Hitler. Bonhoeffer has fascinated me for a while. I count three of his works (The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together and Ethics) among my very favorite books and I’ve long pondered the complexity of a spiritual journey that leads someone from planning to visit Gandhi in India to learn about nonviolence to return instead to Germany to participate in an assassination plot.
All sorts of people want to claim Bonhoeffer as their own (and probably, neither Metaxas nor myself are exceptions) but what I love about Bonhoeffer is that even with all his complexity and seeming contradictions, he doesn’t shy away from hard questions and answers about what it means to be faithful to Christ amidst the harsh realities of our world.
I’ll leave you to chew on this paragraph from Ethics that I came across last summer, written during Hitler’s rule but as timely a warning as ever for us today:
When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In the place of the love that believes all, bears all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God, there is now the pharisaical denial of love to evil, and the restriction of love to the closed circle of the devout. Instead of the open Church of Jesus Christ, which serves the world till the end, there is now some allegedly primitive Christian ideal of a Church, which in its turn confuses the reality of the living Jesus Christ with the realization of a Christian idea. Thus a world which has become evil succeeds in making the Christians become evil too.