G’day and welcome to Partake Glimpses Stories, where we see together how Jesus is alive today, working in different peoples lives in different ways. We aim to show Jesus as being relevant to the world today, some 2000 years after He walked the earth, died on a Roman cross, rose again to new life from physical death and ascended back to the right hand of God the Father. Today, once more we take a step back to recent history, into the 20th century, and a very brief glimpse at the Christianity of a well-known Christian.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4, 1906 in Germany. He was a a Lutheran pastor and theologian and had spent time studying in the USA and pastored two churches in London, England in the early 1930s. He returned to Germany to lead an illegal training centre for pastors during which time, he also called for more vocal and active opposition from the churches towards Hitler’s treatment of Jews. Because of this, he was forbidden from preaching, teaching, and all speaking in public to gathered audiences. Dietrich was ultimately arrested and imprisoned for his part in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. What we will concentrate on in this study is how he viewed and lived Christian discipleship. In doing so we will look at some excerpts from two of his published writings “The Cost of Discipleship” and “Letters and Papers from Prison”
Jesus Christ, when He talked about the cost of following Him and being His disciple said this: “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 10:38; 16v24-25)
Echoing these words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. … Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship). He knew that as a Christian, a person has to take up their own cross in following Jesus and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Dietrich also wrote “Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. … The Christian disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” (The Cost of Discipleship)
In a Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12v9, he said that “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians adjusts themselves far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense and shock the world far more than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favour of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”
A Cost of Following Jesus
These are strong and powerful words I am sure you would agree! So did Bonhoeffer’s life match his words? In one extreme example, we look at his first days in prison
“For my first night in prison I was locked up in an admission cell. The blankets in the camp had such a foul smell that in spite of the cold it was impossible to use them. Next morning a piece of bread was thrown into my cell; I had to pick it up from the floor. The sound of the prison’s staff vile abuse of the prisoners who were held for investigation penetrated into my cell for the first time; since then, I have heard it every day from morning to night.
The first night in my cell I could sleep very little because in the next cell a prisoner wept loudly for several hours. Nobody took any notice.
After twelve days the authorities got to know of my family connections. While this was of course, a great relief for me personally, from an objective point of view it was most embarrassing to see how everything changed from that moment,. I was put in a more spacious cell which was cleaned for me daily by one of the men. When the food came round I was offered larger rations, which I always refused, since they would have been at the expense of other prisoners.” (Malcolm Muggeridge, The Third Testament)
So, after just twelve nights in atrocious conditions, because he had good connections on the outside of prison, he was moved to a more spacious, cleaner and quieter cell. He probably had no choice about the cell he was given. He could have just eaten the extra food given to him there. But he decided not to, because to eat that extra food, he would have robbed somebody else. For him, material possessions and food were part of his Christian discipleship – part of the cost of following Jesus Christ faithfully. Just as they are of your Christian discipleship – whether you are aware of it or not.
But another facet of the cost of Dietrich Bonhoeffer following Jesus was speaking out for those who had no voice. In the case of Bonhoeffer, the Jewish race undergoing systematic persecution and extinction under Hitler and the German Nazis.
He wrote those: “We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; … Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?” Letters and Papers from Prison
He ultimately paid the price for his speaking out for those who had no voice. His life motto could be summed up in these 2 sentences from his writings: “One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons … Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility,” He was eventually hanged on April 9, 1945 following the failure of an assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944. His life actions echoed his words. How are you counting the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ? What do your material possessions and consumption of necessities of food say about your being a Christian? Are you willing to speak up for those who have no voice in your local community, national community and global community?
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