This was a man who was very popular during our undergrad days. We heard a lot about him and read his book The Cost of Discipleship. The book is great but one has to be careful of elevating different men to high status within the Christian world.
What brings Mr. Bonhoeffer to mind today is an article published over at the Christian Post. We will quote just a little from that article.
Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1931, lecturing and pastoring a church. Horrified by the rise of the Nazis, he spoke out publicly against Hitler from the moment he became Chancellor in 1933. His was not a popular view: many German Christians, encouraged by Hitler’s manipulative use of Christian language, saw him as the nation’s savior.
Bonhoeffer found himself part of the resistance against Nazism. He spoke against the persecution of the Jews and when Hitler demanded a church that swore loyalty to him, Bonhoeffer helped create the Confessing Church, which declared that its head was Christ, not the Führer. Bonhoeffer gained only limited support and, disillusioned by the direction Germany was taking, he went to pastor two German-speaking churches in London. There he would gain even more international connections, having developed friendships with British church leaders.
We do take risks when we speak out against a popular trend or a dictator’s orders or preferences. And we do need to be careful not to hasten our own demise by speaking out of turn or using the bible to falsely justify our resistance.
The bad way of using scriptures turns people off of Jesus and the Gospel just as easily as disobedience to God’s commands. Jesus provided us with a good example to follow.
He lived under Roman rule, while not as bad as the Assyrians, it was still fairly ruthless and atrocities did occur against those who spoke against the regime. many ancient Jewish people did what Mrl Bonhoeffer did and spoke openly in opposition to Roman rule and they paid the same price.
We will use Wikipedia here as we are just linking to evidence for those revolts. There are far better histories you can read that give you better details. The Maccabees also conducted revolts against the Romans as described briefly at this link.
When you compare what Jesus did with these human attempts to end the conquest you will see that Jesus had a much better idea. Under Jesus’ example, people did not die and were free to live as they normally would.
The only time they had trouble would have been under the Christian persecution eras and then it would not be the Christian who was sinning but the secular rulers.
Jesus’ way makes sure believers do not sin. That is very important if Christians are to make an impact for Christ in this world. We can disagree with certain preferences, edicts, and other actions that are sinful but we do it in the way that does not have us sinning.
We are to obey God in our protests excluding any justification that would approve of sinful methods. We are not to sin in our protests. This includes not only being against dictators like Hitler but also abortion, slavery, sex trade, and so on.
Over the years as we learned more about Mr. Bonhoeffer, we felt that his words in his book were undermined if his actions were as history tells us. If he sinned then he is not paying the cost for being a disciple of Christ. Instead, he is paying the cost of breaking the law and being a criminal.
Bonhoeffer was initially charged with conspiring to rescue Jews, using his foreign travels for non-intelligence matters, and misusing his intelligence position to help Confessing Church pastors evade military service. After the failed July 20, 1944, coup attempt, his connections to the broader resistance circles were uncovered and he was moved to the Gestapo View This Term in the Glossary prison in Berlin. In February 1945, he was taken to Buchenwald and in April moved to the Flossenbürg concentration camp. On April 9, 1945, he was hanged with other conspirators. His brother Klaus Bonhoeffer was also executed for resistance activities, as were his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicher. (source)
This is something we have to be careful of. While we are allowed to protest in some ways, we must do so correctly following God and his commands. We do not use our own understanding as Prov. 3 says but look to God as he knows best.
We also do not place our own ideas into God’s mouth and think we are following God when we are following sinful humans’ ideas. Being a Christian is tough as there are so many sinful practices that must be endured and overcome.
Revival is one way but most Christians preach revival messages, not messages that will bring revival. Nor do they and the church have a heart that will allow revival to take place. Having the right heart is key to seeing God win many souls and changing the world we live in.
Revival and changing the practices of government does not stop at preaching a gospel message then walking away. They change by Christians living holy lives, speaking the truth in love, and not approving of sinful actions committed by their fellow church goers.
God calls us all to be holy by obeying that command we make a greater impact on the world than starting a resistance movement that plans on killing a dictator, no matter how bad he is.
While we and many other people like Mrl Bonhoeffer and the way he lived his life, he made serious errors in judgment. Errors we should avoid today. He is not the example to follow, Jesus’ way is.
When you read the life of Christ in the Gospels, you will notice, he never called for assassinations of evil people. He never called for violence against anyone and he never advocated lying.
We obey God so that he gets the glory for the changes in society and politicians’, judges’, and educators’ lives. It is not easy living in this world as so many unbelievers are holding power and advocating sinful ways to run governments, schools, and courts.
Their failure to uphold the laws of the land are sinful actions as Jesus said to obey the laws of the land when they did not have you sinning against God. Instead of publicly holding prayer sessions, going out onto football fields to pray, or holding days of prayers, start the change by obeying Jesus and going into your prayer closets and pray fervently.
Then God will get the glory when he answers those good prayers that every believer should be praying. Even praying should be done for the glory of God. Then if you are persecuted for obeying God, you can rejoice knowing there will be a reward waiting for you in heaven.
There is no reward for those who fudge God’s word to fit their agenda and no reward for disobeying God either.