I recently read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. You can purchase a copy here or probably find it at your public library. It tells the story of a privileged German young man who grew up while Nazism was taking hold of Germany. His father was an esteemed professor of psychology and his family participated in the highest social circles. Dietrich chose to go to seminary and become a pastor. He opposed Nazism for many reasons, but primarily because of the persecution of the Jews. If you don’t have the time to read the full biography there is ample information on Bonhoeffer available on the Internet.
Dietrich watched as the Nazis took over the church in Germany. There was no separation of church and state. Dietrich rebelled and became part of a movement that was known as the confessing church. My understanding is that their goal was to reestablish Jesus as Lord. To that end, Dietrich established a seminary and while he was teaching at this seminary he wrote The Cost of Discipleship. There are many versions of this book and the one I’m reading is a new edition that can be found here.
This book was written in 1937. Those who oppose Nazism are being persecuted. I don’t think our situation today is as extreme, but I do think that there are parallels to think about. I’m interested in reading the thoughts of someone who would ultimately be hanged for what his faith called him to do. Bonhoeffer’s opposition to Nazism led him to participate in the plot to assassinate Hitler. For this he was put in prison and eventually hung just weeks before the end of World War II.
The introduction to the book ends with this quote from Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Jesus’ commandment is harsh, inhumanly harsh for someone who resists it. Jesus’ commandment is gentle and not difficult for someone who willingly accepts it. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship
I have always struggled with Jesus’ statement at the end of Matthew 11. I’m sure there must be followers of Jesus who are experiencing the rest and peace that Jesus describes. Unfortunately, most of the Christians I interact with, including me, seem weighed down. If Bonhoeffer’s words are correct, then the reason is clear.
I’m going to take my time with this book. We have just been through a very good series of lessons on the Sermon on the Mount at our church and Jesus’ words in that sermon are at the core of Bonhoeffer’s writing. I’m hoping you’ll come on this journey with me.