Category Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Only in the cross” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Only in the cross of Jesus Christ is the love of God to be found.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayerbook of the Bible in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 175.

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“In the midst of enemies” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of His enemies. In the end all His disciples abandoned Him. On the cross He was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds.

He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), Vol. 5: 27.

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“Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“God gives you Christ as the foundation of your marriage. ‘Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7). In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,” Letters & Papers From Prison (New York: Touchstone, 1953/1997), 46.

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“A burden from God which they must carry” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Since men live on earth, God has given them a lasting reminder that this earth stands under the curse of sin and is not itself the ultimate reality. Over the destiny of woman and of man lies the dark shadow of a word of God’s wrath, a burden from God, which they must carry. The woman must bear her children in pain, and in providing for his family the man must reap many thorns and thistles, and labor in the sweat of his brow.

This burden should cause both man and wife to call on God, and should remind them of their eternal destiny in His kingdom. Earthly society is only the beginning of the heavenly society, the earthly home an image of the heavenly home, the earthly family a symbol of the fatherhood of God.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,” Letters & Papers From Prison (New York: Touchstone, 1953/1997), 46.

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“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 1948/2001), 44.

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“Who am I?” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Who am I?”
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (March 4, 1945)

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Who am I?” in Letters & Papers From Prison (New York: Touchstone, 1953/1997), 347-8.

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“What sin is” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.

Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of men. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 118-9.

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