Bits Of Bonhoeffer

Below is a compendium of quotes I have gathered from a variety of works by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  They are in no particular order, but each one has specific meaning to me. If you read my recent post, “Cheap Grace,” you know that I am in the process of discovery where Bonhoeffer is concerned. I trust that you will appreciate the godly wisdom in these “Bonhoeffer Bits” as I have; that they will deepen your faith and that they will give you strength for your daily walk with Christ. God’s Truth always has a ripple effect when we apply it to our daily lives.

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

“If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.”

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depths of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

“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 man.  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.  The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.  The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God.  The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

“The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”

“Each morning is a new beginning of our life. Each day is a finished whole. The present day marks the boundary of our cares and concerns. It is long enough to find God or loose Him, to keep faith or fall into disgrace. God created day and night for us so we need not wander without boundaries, but may be able to see in every morning the goal of the evening ahead. Just as the ancient sun rises anew everyday, so the eternal mercy of God is new every morning. Every morning God gives us the gift of comprehending anew His faithfulness of old; thus in the midst of our life with God, we may daily begin a new life with Him. In the first moments of the new day are for God’s liberating grace, God’s sanctifying presence. Before the heart unlocks itself for the world, God wants to open it for Himself; before the ear takes in the countless voices of the day, it should hear in the early hours the voice of the Creator and Redeemer. God prepared the stillness of the first morning for Himself. It should remain His.”

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died.”

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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