Maybe you’re familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, maybe you’ve only heard of him, or maybe you don’t know who he is at all. If either of the latter two are the case, I encourage you to get to know who Bonhoeffer is, and perhaps read his classic work on the role of Christianity in the secular world, The Cost of Discipleship, from which the above quote comes.
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany during the rise of Nazism and the Third Reich. He was also a vocal anti-Nazi dissident, and a key founder of the Confessing Church, which resisted efforts by the German government to organize all Protestant Christians into the pro-Nazi “German Evangelical Church.” Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and sent to prison and then a concentration camp, where he was finally executed in 1945.
One of the central ideas in Bonhoeffer’s theological writings is an emphasis on both personal and collective piety, and on the idea of imitating Christ. Appalled and disheartened by the compliance of the church with Nazi atrocities, he argued that Christians should be engaged with the world rather than retreating from it, bringing forth justice and accepting divine suffering.
Accepting suffering, however, does not imply passivity, but rather a willingness to engage with it head-on. Accepting suffering does should turn us into by-standers, but instead make us participants with those who suffer – just as Christ suffers with and for us. In the face of racism, LGBTQIA discrimination, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and violence, Bonhoeffer’s life calls to us with his witness to step into suffering by facing it, and enduring it, as Christ does.
Peace for the Journey,