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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945)


German Lutheran pastor, theologian, participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and founding member of the Confessing Church.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By willing endurance we cause suffering to pass. Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. By refusing to pay back the enemy with his own coin, and preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult. Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence.
Bonhoeffer quotes
For Bonhoeffer, the foundation of ethical behaviour lay in how the reality of the world and the reality of God were reconciled in the reality of Christ. Both in his thinking and in his life, ethics were centered on the demand for action by responsible men and women in the face of evil. He was sharply critical of ethical theory and of academic concerns with ethical systems precisely because of their failure to confront evil directly. Evil, he asserted, was concrete and specific, and it could be combated only by the specific actions of responsible people in the world. The uncompromising position Bonhoeffer took in his seminal work Ethics, was directly reflected in his stance against Nazism.
Bonhoeffer
Distant or near,
in joy or in sorrow,
each in the other
sees his true helper
to brotherly freedom.




Bonhoeffer Dietrich quotes
Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon the time which we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering. Time lost is time not filled, time left empty.
Bonhoeffer Dietrich
Beside the staff of life,
taken and fashioned from the heavy earth,
beside our marriage, work, and war
the free man, too, will live and grow towards the sun.
Not the ripe fruit alone —
blossom is lovely, too.
Does blossom only serve the fruit,
or does fruit only serve the blossom —
who knows?
But both are given to us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes
Jesus bluntly calls the evil person evil. If I am assailed, I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance of evil does not mean a recognition of its rights. That is sheer sentimentality, and Jesus will have nothing to do with it. The shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. … The very fact that the evil which assaults him is unjustifiable makes it imperative that he should not resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By his willingly renouncing self-defence, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego. The exclusiveness of this adherence is the only power which can overcome evil.
Bonhoeffer Dietrich quotes
What is the "extraordinary"? It is the love of Jesus Christ himself, love that goes to the cross in suffering obedience. It is the cross. The peculiar feature of Christian life is precisely this cross, a cross enabling Christians to go beyond the world, as it were, thereby granting them victory over the world. Suffering encountered in the love of the one who is crucified — that is the "extraordinary" in Christian existence.
The Extraordinary is without doubt that visible element over which the Father in heaven is praised. It cannot remain hidden; people must see it.
Bonhoeffer
Sickened by vermin
that feed, in the shade of the good,
on envy, greed, and suspicion,
by the snake-like hissing
of venomous tongues
that fear hate and revile
the mystery of free thought
and upright heart
The spirit would cast aside all deceit,
open his heart to the spirit he trusts,
and unite with him freely as one.
Bonhoeffer Dietrich
Nicht aus dem schweren Boden
wo Blut und Geschlecht und Schwur
mächtig und heilig sind,
wo die Erde selbst
gegen Wahnsinn und
die geweihten heilgen uralten Ordnungen
hütet und schützt und rächt, —
nicht aus dem schweren Boden der Erde,
sondern aus freiem Gefallen
und freiem Verlangen des Geistes,
der nicht des Eides und des Gesetzes bedarf,
wird der Freund dem Freunde geschenkt.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God honors some with great suffering and grants them the grace of martyrdom, while other are not tempted beyond their strength. But in every case it is one cross.
It is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering that everyone has to experience is the call which summons us away from our attachments to this world. It is the death of the old self in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Those who enter into discipleship enter into Jesus' death.




Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes
Man seeks, in his manhood,
not orders, not laws and peremptory dogmas,
but counsel from one who is earnest in goodness
and faithful in friendship,
making man free.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Jesus' call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of the forgiveness of sins. Forgiving sins is the Christ-suffering required of his disciples. It is required of all Christians.
Bonhoeffer quotes
When the spirit touches
man's heart and brow
with thoughts that are lofty, bold, serene,
so that with clear eyes he will face the world
as a free man may;
when the spirit gives birth to action
by which alone we stand or fall;
when from the sane and resolute action
rises the workd that gives a a man's life
content and meaning — then would that many,
lonely and actively working,
know of the spirit that grasps and befriends him...
Bonhoeffer Dietrich
Should the church be trying to erect a spiritual reign of terror over people by threatening earthly and eternal punishment on its own authority and commanding everything a person must believe and do to be saved? Should the church's word bring new tyranny and violent abuse to human souls? It may be that some people yearn for such servitude. But could the church ever serve such a longing?
When holy scripture speaks of following Jesus, it proclaims that people are free from all human rules, from everything which presumes, burdens, or causes worry and torment of conscience. In following Jesus, people are released from the hard yoke of their own laws to be under the gentle yoke of Jesus Christ. ... Jesus' commandment never wishes to destroy life, but rather to preserve, strengthen, and heal life.
Bonhoeffer Dietrich quotes
Bonhoffer offers an insight into friendship. He notes that it is not easy to classify this relationship sociologically, unlike the relationships which derive from, what he refers to as, the divine mandates, namely marriage, work, the state and the church. Because it cannot be classified or defined as such, friendship cannot be protected by the courts or society in general. Rather, friendship develops in freedom, or as Bonhoffer says, friendship appeals to the necessitas of liberty. Friendship is defined by "the binding content between two people." ... The Christian's service of God entails service of one's neighbor. The community united in worship is a manifestation of God's presence. In worship we "rehearse" or "act out" what we are to become as God's people, namely "One." Moreover, in a sense we "worship one another," in that we are aware that each member of the community is an image of the living God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all he has. It is the pearl of great price to by which the merchant will sell all his goods.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?
Bonhoeffer Dietrich
Bonhoeffer was disinterested in another world, opposed to setting apart so-called religious activities, such as prayer and church-going, from the everyday activities of earning a living or engaging in politics. ... Religion if it is to be vital, must lead to the amelioration of social problems.


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