20 Influential Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Emily Maust Wood Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2021 4 Mar
Who was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an anti-Nazi theologian and pastor during World War II. Best remembered for authoring the Christian classics The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in Germany and began his journey in church leadership during the rise of the Nazi regime.
Although Bonhoeffer did not grow up in a particularly religious home, he announced his plans to join the church when he was just fourteen. After obtaining his doctorate in theology and working in churches abroad, Bonhoeffer became a priest and lecturer in Berlin at the age of twenty-five.
Hitler's rise to power just two years later marked a turning point in Bonhoeffer's career. Despite the mounting cost, Bonhoeffer spoke out against the Führer's influence. Frustrated by the unwillingness of church leaders to oppose Hitler's anti-Semitism, Bonhoeffer created the Confessing Church, alongside Martin Niemoller and Karl Barth. Eventually forbidden to teach publicly and forced underground, Bonhoeffer taught seminary students for several years until even the Confessing Church grew reluctant to contradict Nazi leadership. Having lost this opportunity, Bonhoeffer briefly sought asylum in the United States but, after concluding that it was wrong to abandon his friends, returned to Nazi Germany.
Formerly a pacifist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer became persuaded of the need for violence against the Nazi regime and joined a group called the Abwehr, whose primary mission was to assassinate Hitler. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement in helping Jews flee the country. Still, he continued to teach with the help of guards who smuggled out his writing, until he was transferred to a concentration camp. When his association with other Abwehr agents was discovered, Bonhoeffer was sentenced to death. He was hanged in April 1945, just one month before Germany surrendered.
More than seventy years after his death, his life and writings serve as a touchstone for all of us who seek to understand a Christian's responsibility in the face of injustice -- and as an encouragement to serve no matter how great the cost.
20 Inspiring Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes
- “God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility... this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”
- “Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”
- “The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear. . . . We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them."
- "May we be enabled to say 'No' to sin and 'Yes' to the sinner.”
- “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
- “Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don't do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
- “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
- "In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought that takes success for its standard.”
- “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others . . . not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”
- “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
- “Seek God, not happiness - this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness: that is its promise.”
- “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.”
- “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?"
- “The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.”
- “One act of obedience is worth a hundred sermons.”
- “The awareness of a spiritual tradition that reaches through the centuries gives one a certain feeling of security in the face of all transitory difficulties.”
- "It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”
- “The community of the saints is not an 'ideal' community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God's forgiveness. ”
- “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
- “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
Books By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Reader's Edition)">: In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, renowned Christian minister, professor, and author of The Cost of Discipleship recounts his unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years in Germany. Giving practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups, Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.
The Cost of Discipleship: One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus. The Cost of Discipleship is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.
Emily Maust Wood is a freelance editor and fitness coach. She lives with her husband and shelter dog, collects old books and broken things, and worries about where her running shoes come from. Charmed by the idea of restoring an old home, she chronicles the adventure at lacorbeille.wordpress.com.
Photo credit: Wikipedia archives
This article is part of our larger Inspiring Quotes resource meant to encourage strengthen your faith. Visit our most popular quotes by well known Christians and theologians to find more inspiration. Remember, the Holy Spirit can work through us when we increase our faith and share it with us! Please pass along any quotes that touch your heart because you never know light you can shine on someone else’s dark day!