I rarely take a breath in and forget to exhale. Especially while reading a book. But with Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Mataxas, I guess this is my exception. (For those that don’t know, Bonhoeffer was a theologian, pastor, and author in Germany during WWII, and was eventually imprisoned and martyred for his faith.)
Wherever Bonhoeffer stepped, even in the darkest of prisons, people witnessed his constant joy. He lived and breathed peace. He was a man absolutely for others. He was a pastor, not by title alone, but at his core. Prisoners would find him and pull on his life, the life of Christ inside of him. On his last day on earth, Bonhoeffer’s fellow prisoners asked him to hold a church service, with one of the most vocal askers a professed atheist. He read from Isaiah 53:5 (“By His stripes, we are healed.”) and 1st Peter 1:3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”)
Just as Bonhoeffer finished his closing prayer, a SS guard stormed in the prison, demanding Bonhoeffer relocate to another prison, which happened to be notorious for being a place to go die. Bonhoeffer said his goodbyes to his prisoner friends, closing with these words.
“This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.”
This is where i forgot to exhale.
Because after 542 pages of this man’s life, i understood God had prepared him for this moment in time.
Reading the detailed process of Bonhoeffer’s relentless pursuit of Christ and willingness to follow when NO ONE else was has taken my breath away.
A hero, yes. But more than that. A prophet whose words live on, who stirs my heart to be willing to follow Jesus, even unto death.
Please read this book if you have sometime. Its long, heavy, and quite intimidating to read. And to finish was a long process, in which i almost gave up at various points.
But wow, I’m so glad I finished. His life is a prophetic call to live obedient to Christ above all else.
When the foundation of the German Church was crumbling at all sides be the relentless onslaught of lies from the Nazis, Bonhoeffer held to the truth.
Religion can’t withstand these lies. On a true relationship with Christ is strong enough. Truth moved Bonhoeffer to risk everything. He did, and was hanged for it, requested by enraged Hitler himself two weeks before his suicide. But he died knowing it was now the beginning. The long walk to freedom was over. He had arrived.
Bonhoeffer wrote about “Religion-less Christianity.” He had a vision of faith in Christ without the dead works and empty traditions. Just Jesus.
And he was one of the few that stood up to the lies, and proclaimed the truth of Christ with boldness during WWII from within Germany.
May we learn from his story.
Finally, watch the author of the biography give an INCREDIBLE speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C
It is well worth the 30 min video
For an introduction into Bonhoeffer’s books, read “Cost of Discipleship” – so good!
Here’s a quote from it.
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”