A Full Life
Eric Metaxas’ recent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, is an excellent account of one man’s struggle to live an authentic Christian life amidst the abject evils of the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian and pastor in the German Lutheran church during the 1930s and was integral in the formation of the Confessing Church, a movement in response to the nationalist (Nazi) takeover of the mainline German church. He became increasingly involved in speaking out against the Nazis, especially concerning their treatment of German Jews. Eventually, he would become part of a large, multi-level conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime. The repeated failures of the conspiracy would eventually lead to Bonhoeffer’s execution only months before the war would end and Hitler would take his own life.
As the story unfolds, we are confronted with a man whose understanding of God is constantly being expanded. His unique context of Nazi Germany forces him to see the need for a God that goes beyond the religiosity of Sunday morning. “God was bigger than everyone imagined, and he wanted more of his followers and more of the world than was given him.” In a letter written from prison to his friend, Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer writes, “I should like to speak of God not on the boundaries but at the centre, not in weakness but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in man’s life and goodness.” Because of our redemption in Jesus Christ, we are allowed the freedom and responsibility to see that ALL of creation is celebrated and defended.
“The church stands not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village.”
When Rebe and I reflect on our family’s upcoming move to Tanzania, our thoughts and emotions range from excitement to anxiety, from assurance to fear. There are times when I wonder if it is necessary for my family to be in Africa in order for God’s Kingdom to expand amongst the Nyamwezi. But our God has plans for this world that we cannot begin to understand. When Africa seems to “big” to think about, we remember that God desires the church to be in the middle of every village.
quotes from pp. 467-8