Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A Good Disciple

Some years ago I was asked to give a presentation on "discipleship" for my parish RCIA program. I chose a few of my favorite disciples to talk about - of course Blessed Mother Teresa was first as I have a long relationship with the Missionaries of Charity. I also spoke of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, a wonderful saint for our time. I ended the presentation with some words about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the well known Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a founding member of the Lutheran Confessing Church. He involved himself in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was hung in April 1945 at Flossenbürg concentration camp. I will not go more into his biography here but I will say he was a man to be admired, a man who loved Christ and gave his life for his friends, becoming a Christian martyr.

Here are some of his words on Faith and Obedience...

The gracious call of Jesus now becomes a stern command: Do this! Give up that! Leave the ship and come to me! When a man says he cannot obey the call of Jesus because he believes, or because he does not believe, Jesus says: “First obey, perform the external work, renounce your attachments, give up the obstacles which separate you from the will of God. Do not say you have not got faith. You will not have it so long as you persist in disobedience and refuse to take the first step. Neither must you say that you have faith, and therefore there is no need for you to take the first step. You have not got faith so long as and because you will not take the first step but become hardened in your unbelief under the guise of humble faith.” It is a malicious subterfuge to argue like this, a sure sign of lack of faith, which leads in its turn to a lack of obedience. This is the disobedience of the “believers”; when they are asked to obey, they simply confess their unbelief and leave it at that (Mark 9.24). You are trifling with the subject. If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it. No one wants to know about your faith or unbelief, your orders are to perform the act of obedience on the spot. Then you will find yourself in the situation where faith becomes possible and where faith exists in the true sense of the word.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 73-74

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