Bonhoeffer: Living Christianly


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who became a courier for the resistance that plotted the assassination of Hitler. He was arrested by the Gestapo, and while in prison wrote many letters and papers that were smuggled out. They were collected and published after World War II. Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 9th at Flossenbürg, weeks before the end of World War II. This letter was written after he heard of the failure of what he and others worked for—to assassinate Hitler on July 20th.

“During the last year or so I have come to appreciate the ‘worldliness’ of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a religious person, but a person, pure and simple, just as Jesus was a person, compared with John the Baptist anyhow (who wore special clothes, ate a special diet, lived in special places). I don’t mean the shallow this-worldliness of the enlightened, of the busy, the comfortable, or the lascivious. It’s something much more profound than that, something in which the knowledge of death and resurrection is ever present.…

"This is what I mean by worldliness — taking life in one’s stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness. It is in such a life that we throw ourselves utterly in the arms of God and participate in his sufferings in the world and watch with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, that is metanoia, and that is what makes a person and a Christian. How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world?”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, pp. 168f

Metanoia is Greek for repentance, reformation, change of life and direction, a new paradigm!