Welcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. Some will be about relationships, emotional struggles, or other areas of practical living. Some are books that have helped me in my personal devotional life. This week’s selection, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is a biography.
I enjoy reading biographies and don’t have the time to read nearly as many as I would like, but I read this one a year or so ago. To say the book impacted me would be an understatement!
In case you’re not familiar with him, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor, theologian, and writer (The Cost of Discipleship) who came into his own during Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany. While many pastors and religious leaders were wooed into believing Hitler only wanted the best for Germany, Bonhoeffer refused to close his eyes to what was happening. He was a founding member of the Confessing Church, those who went underground because they refused to fall in line as Hitler nationalized the German church. They understood and taught that God and His Word must be the final authority in life.
Friends who recognized his importance to the true church in Germany got him out of the country and safely to America. But a couple of weeks later, convinced he needed to stand with the believers in his homeland, he was on a boat back to Germany.
He eventually joined the German underground, working selflessly and in spite of great personal danger, to save and protect as many Jews as they could. Over and over he demonstrated great moral courage in the face of unspeakable evil. Eventually, he and others decided Hitler must be stopped.
He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was imprisoned for one and a half years. He was tried and hanged just before the war ended.
I can’t begin to summarize in a few paragraphs the various ways I was impacted by Bonhoeffer’s life, but among them, I gained a fresh realization for the cost many have suffered willingly for the cause of Christ and others.
Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer is full of history, personal accounts, excerpts from his writings and correspondence, glimpses of his family and personal life, and explanations of his theology and work for the kingdom of God.
Metaxas wrote this about his execution:
The camp doctor at Flossenbürg was H. Fischer-Hüllstrung. He had no idea whom he was watching at the time, but years later, he gave the following account of Bonhoeffer’s last minutes alive:
“On the morning of that day between five and six o’clock the prisoners, among them Admiral Canaris, General Oster, General Thomas and Reichgerichtsrat Sack were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Bonhoeffer thought it the plain duty of the Christian—and the privilege and honor—to suffer with those who suffered. He knew that it was a privilege to be allowed by God to partake of the sufferings of the Jews who had died in this place before him. According to Schlabrendorff, the crematorium at Flossenbürg was not working, so the bodies of the men hanged that morning were burned in piles, and in this, too, he had the honor to be joined to the millions of other victims of the Third Reich.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15.13).
Quotations taken from:
Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Previously featured books:
Week #1 – Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer. You can read my post here.
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