In February I read the book “Radical Integrity” the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, shortly after closing the book I wrote down some of the thoughts that were swirling in my head. I had forgotten I had written them down until I found them this week. I post them here as an introspective look. To remind me, to hold fast to what I know and believe to be right and good, in the face of adversity, knowing that He who is right and good will hold fast to me to the very end.
Thoughts: I just finished reading the book “Radical Integrity” The Life Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer- He was a man who grew in his understanding, his relationship and his dependency on God. The Almighty became for him a real and present help in time of need and in time of trouble. Especially in his confinement of imprisonment when he felt alone, he clung to the God of Hope- whom he sought diligently through the scriptures.
It seems his world became very small in the face of the war of Hitler’s regime. Dietrich had to shed every layer of ideology, pretense and national pride and myth. In order to find a place where he was loyal to the Lord in his heart, his words, and in his actions. Yet Bonhoeffer did not arrive instantaneously at the prescribed result- in fact the end, death (by hanging,) in his reality and own words marked the beginning of life.
It is difficult for me to imagine what he must have endured and suffered,and yet he found solace and comfort in the scriptures and in the suffering of Christ. So much so, he felt he was a partaker in that suffering. This suffering saint wrote a poem titled “What Am I”? it details what others say about him, characteristics, he notes his own estimation based on his feelings, yet in the end he declares “Lord, you know my heart who I am? I am Thine”.
God knows the heart of every man, even when we are unable to live up to an expected expectation, God knows us in our weaknesses, and he is able to meet us there, so on lookers can see, and know it is not I ,but Christ in me. I have no strength but Christ strengthens me. Christ is the well we must draw from for whatever we need. Strength for the day, for the moment. we must know Christ, not just know about Him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to know Him, not just in theory, but in the midst of all the chaos swirling about him. He narrowed in on the one source that sustained him. That gave validity and appreciation to every thing and everyone around him. Perhaps the circumstances leading up to his imprisonment had they not occurred would not have forced him to draw so near to Christ , and His Word. Perhaps he would have remained a speaker and theologian, a debater of theological ideas with the other great Christian minds of that day. But when all those people and opportunities were removed, and he was alone. The high and lofty notion of Christ, became a very real and very close personal God. No longer far away and reachable only by mental assent. The God incarnate super ceded all his ideas and debates and became his sustain-er, his bread and water ,his Lord and Savior his total dependence.
I think we as Christians today, know Christ in degrees at different times in our life, We know Him by what we hear preached to us about Him. We read about Him in the Word. We call upon Him in our hour of desperation.And when things are going well, we tend to relegate Him to the sidelines of our life.But Christ always desires to be the Center. To be the center of our hearts our thoughts our words our deeds, and for the realization on our part that He is the reason why we live and breathe, and without Him we can do nothing!. We all have to adjust to make Jesus the Center.
There is the hazard though of escaping into heavenly bliss in order to escape any earthly commitments, even Dietrich realized his tendency to escape to this “heavenly mystic abyss”. The old saying “to be so heavenly minded you are no earthly good” has it’s merits.If we are called to be Salt and Light, in this world we can’t retreat into our Christian coma and call it Christian living, what good impact are we having in the lives of others and in this world if we extract ourselves from the equation. We are the good in this world that versus the evil. Good because God is good and He lives in us, Versus evil ( the devil) because he is in this world and in the sons of disobedience.
Dietrich had to draw a line and decide where he was going to take a stand, he wrestled with his Christian ideology and understanding, as a pacifist it was difficult from him to even consider an avenue of violence.He had to choose where he would stand and he took his stance for Christ in the midst of it all, in the midst of Hitler’s horror, In his country, where chaos and evil ran rampant down every street . Ironically this evil was calling itself a ” Religious Regime”, believing the lie that they were a superior people and superiorly created to be “Super men” by God!. They never surrendered or acknowledged God instead many pledged their allegiance to Hitler and to their country. Dietrich chose to pledge his allegiance to the Lord, and was able to distinguish the contrast and error of choosing country and regime.He did not allow himself to be swept away with the arrogance and rebellious pride that was sweeping the nation of Germany. He knew it was wrong and not what God desired, for that “religious” country had replaced the true God, with a resident evil.The time of Hitler and the hatred and antisemitism, towards the Jews was horrific, sad and sickening.It was demonically driven and hell bent on obliterating and erasing, the chosen people of God, His elect. The devil found a country and a nation and a man, Hitler whom he could control and carry out his demonic scheme and call it “religious purging”, in order to bring about a “pure race”. The face of pure evil.
How can I apply to my life, what was gleaned from this book ?. Seek God, I may never be called upon like Dietrich to be an instrument in covert actions to overthrow the leader of the country. But I am called to recognize evil and choose Christ, to not compromise what I believe in. My life may never be in danger of losing because of my beliefs, but still I must hold fast to Whom I believe in. It may not be a world war at my door, though at times there is warfare,remain in Peace, In the midst of these perilous and trying times remain in Him, When turbulence is on the horizon, in the air, in my city, even in my home, Cling to Jesus.hold fast till the end,for He is faithful and holding me.
When it’s all said and done dear saint may you leave it all on the earth floor- live life knowing you have already won, because of Jesus Christ. Take nothing with and hold nothing in reserve.Our challenge every day is to live this kind of life. Knowing that the end is just the beginning, till then God help us all..