A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

July 19, 2020

The Cost of Discipleship

      If you have followed this blog for any length of time, then you know the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If not, then I hope you will find the courage and wisdom of this Pastor to be a beacon of hope and encouragement during this season of our nation's history. Let me share a little bit about him...
      I know we are not to have idols in this world, or lift any man above another.  But there are times when we must look to the example of righteous men, in order to know the path we are to follow. My friends, that time is now.  Our culture and nation are rapidly disintegrating into immoral chaos. Destruction begets more destruction; death begets more death. We see the moral fabric of this nation being stretched in so many directions that we wonder how long before it's ripped to shreds? People are listening to false prophets and teachers who promote lawlessness in the name of justice. How far are the citizens of this nation willing to go to achieve their idea of "social equality"? Do we, as a nation, still revere our individual freedoms, or will we blindly follow the voices of deception? Are we, as Christians, willing to stand for uncompromising Christian principles?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     Eighty years ago, a pastor in Nazi Germany asked himself those same questions and took his stand. Dietrich Bonhoeffer acted responsibly in his faith during one of the most evil times in history. He was a deeply religious Lutheran pastor and he found himself in a dilemma ... when informed of the evil that was Adolph Hitler, and the plan to exterminate the Jews, he had to make a decision ... how far is "too far" in order to stop that evil?  When confronted with something so offensive to God, is there ever an excuse for Christians to compromise, capitulate, or raise the white flag?
     Bonhoeffer didn't think so, and it cost him his life.  At the beginning of the Nazi regime, many members of the [Protestant] churches did not reject National Socialism on principle.  Suffering from the effects of their loss in WWI, many Germans were drawn to the German National People's Party and their idealization of the past.
     But a small group of pastors, including Bonhoeffer, became unified in what would be called "the Confessing Church" and arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church. They objected to the Nazis on moral and theological principles: they could not reconcile the Nazi state's claim to total control over the person with the ultimate sovereignty that, in Christian orthodoxy, must belong only to God.  It was their stated objective to resist state manipulation of religious affairs. They tried to stay out of the political fray, and hoped to convince the Church to recognize the contradictions of being a Christian and a Nazi.
     But as the evil that was Hitler and his regime grew, pastors could no longer stay on the sidelines.  They had to choose between inaction, which was, in essence, condoning the atrocities towards the Jews; or becoming involved with plots to stop the madness -- even if it meant being part of assassination attempts on the Evil Mastermind, himself.  Many chose the safe route that included tolerance and turning a blind eye. A few did not; with some being sent to concentration camps, where they survived the war -- or in the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose fate was to be hanged for his opposition to Hitler and his obedience to his faith.
     I can only imagine the spiritual struggle involved in making that kind of decision. As a Christian, willingly killing someone is never something that we want to consider. But as our Second Amendment rights are threatened, and as the soaring gun sales across this nation exhibit, people are sensing that evil is on the rise and there may come a time when they must make a decision to defend their own life by taking the life of another. God forbid! Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced that decision on behalf of his entire nation. 
     Therefore, I have not been surprised at the efforts of the anti-Christ spirit in unbelievers to tear down the memory of martyrs like Bonhoeffer.  They must not let us see or hear the writings of such a man who struggled with how to respond within his religious principles (and God's will) to a rapidly deteriorating national culture -- and who was not only unafraid to live for what he believed in, but was not afraid to die for it.
     I can only imagine the struggle within his spirit as he confronted the likely consequences of his actions. One day he would have to stand before God and explain how, as a Christian, he could be complicit in murdering Hitler.  He finally decided that he would have to rely on God's mercy to understand that he had to stop Evil at any cost, even if it meant he lost his soul. But it wasn't just his own soul he was concerned about.  Writing to his co-conspirators in 1943, he said,  "The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live."
     In his masterful book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, author Eric Metaxas tells us of the challenges Bonhoeffer faced in reconciling his faith, his moral ethics, and the politics of the day, which were quite diabolical in Nazi Germany. How does a committed Christian deal with the prospect of conflict with the Enemy on the battlefield? 
Desmond Doss
     In comparison to Bonhoeffer's story, I'd like to present Desmond Doss, an Army Medic and real-life hero of WWII, who vowed to serve both his country and his God, no matter the cost.  As he told a military tribunal who tried to court martial him for his refusal to carry a weapon, "With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don't [sic] seem like such a bad thing to me to put a little bit of it back together." Doss determined that he would serve his fellow man by putting him first; willing to endanger, and even sacrifice, his own life in order to save another's.  He would save lives, rather than take them, choosing to live out, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
     Bonhoeffer, however, was faced with how to stop the demonic actions of Adolph Hitler, the anti-Christ of his times. Like Doss, Dietrich knew the 6th Commandment, Thou shalt not kill.  But he faced the moral dilemma of doing nothing to stop the murder of 6,000,000 Jews.  He finally came to the conclusion that he trusted God to understand his motives in becoming involved in an assassination attempt on Hitler. To Bonhoeffer, it had come down to God's admonition to Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Both men exercised their freedom of conscience, and they took their accountability to God not only seriously, but solemnly.
     So, are we all capable of being as heroic as Doss or Bonhoeffer?  We have yet to find ourselves in the midst of a gruesome battlefield, although our streets are rapidly becoming a war zone. One thing is clear -- as Christians, we are all in a battle with our culture, and the increasingly compromising positions of our Churches and governmental officials. And like Doss and Bonhoeffer, we must decide how we are to act, as we find ourselves inside the collective drama.  While we are in this world, we are not of it. So, we cannot, and must not, separate ourselves from the world. But it is going to take courage to be and maintain the image of Christ, while all around us, the darkest impulses of the human will try to overwhelm and defeat us.
     If we are true to our faith, we know where our citizenship lies. We are the sons and daughters of the King and citizens of the Kingdom of God. In fact, we are already there with Jesus, in spirit.  We just have to conform our mind, emotions, will, and these temporary bodies to the heavenly conviction of our spirit, and then let our actions show who we are.  It is not enough to pray... although we should not abandon sending our petitions heavenward.  We must be totally committed to our Biblical morals and completely loyal to God; acting on our faith, not just believing.
     And it will cost us. Discipleship in the Name of Jesus will not be a road easily traveled.  We can look at the lives of all the Apostles and see what it cost them. And in the cases of Doss and Bonhoeffer, we can see how loyalty to their God resulted in very different outcomes -- one's actions led to a hero's medal; the other to execution by hanging. I know that there will be those who say that Bonhoeffer's path was wrong and can never be accepted nor forgiven by God.  But my thoughts turn to King David, and his actions in having Uriah killed so that he could lie with Bathsheba.
     As theologian and Hebrew scholar, Michael Heiser, so eloquently writes in his fantastic book, The Unseen Realm, "King David was guilty of the worst of crimes against humanity in the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite.  He was clearly in violation of the law and deserving of death.  Nevertheless, his belief in who Yahweh was among all the gods never wavered.  God was merciful to him, sparing him from death, though his sin had consequences the rest of his life."  The lesson here, is that personal failure, even the worst kind, as exhibited by Bonhoeffer, will not separate you from God's mercy. Although Bonhoeffer was not spared from death [as King David was], he never disavowed his loyalty to God, nor doubted YHWH's loyalty to him.
     In the final minutes of his life, before being led to the gallows, he led a short service for fellow prisoners, praying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Then he asked that a message be delivered to Bishop Bell [a supporter of the German resistance to Nazism) in London; the message reading that "this was the end, but for him also the beginning of life, and that the ultimate victory of their cause – a universal Christian brotherhood rising above all national interest – was certain".
     The prison doctor, who witnessed the execution recorded this impression: "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 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".
     Again, I look to Bonhoeffer's story for signs of what might be coming to our land. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a handful of pastors stood alone in the German Church. He came to America in 1939, hoping to escape the fall of his Church, gain strength from the American Church, and return to Germany to rebuild the Church from the ashes of war.  But he soon became disillusioned with the American Church, writing:  "I now wonder whether it is true that America is the country without a reformation? ... There hardly ever seem to be "encounters" [with God] in this great country.  But where there is no encounter, where liberty is the only unifying factor, one naturally knows nothing of the community which is created through encounter."
     While attending an American church in June of 1939, Bonhoeffer wrote of the sermon, "Lively and original, but too much analysis and too little Gospel."  What would he say today??  And again in June of 1939, he wrote about America:  "The separation of church and state does not result in the church continuing to apply itself to its own task; it is no guarantee against secularism.  Nowhere is the church more secularized than where it is separated in principle, as it does here.  This very separation can create an opposition, so that the church engages much more strongly in political and secular things."
     Sad to say, I find many Churches and fellow Christians looking to politics and elections to solve our issues. They look to bring their Christianity into the political arena in order to influence it. Do we really think changing our politicians or passing legislation will accomplish our commission from the Lord? Do we really think the ballot box will provide us with an escape from what the Bible tells us is coming?
     So, how will we, as modern day Christians, exhibit our loyalty and discipleship to our Lord?  We have seen in the examples of Desmond Doss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the very picture of heroism -- two entirely different men, but both committed to acting out their faith. Neither set out to become a hero, and I wage that neither welcomed the mantle.
     Ultimately, what does Dietrich Bonhoeffer's story have to tell us? Consider what he had to say in his own words ... "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  All Christians, whether in leadership roles or not, should take heed of Bonhoeffer's words and pay attention to history. The German Church ignored the growing persecution of Jews across Europe.  They turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to it, and they did it at their own peril.  In the end, the German Church was taken over by Nazi ideology and the blood of millions of Jews was upon their hands. The American Church is flirting with following the same path.  Pastors must throw off the chains of government and speak out about the wave of persecution streaming towards Christianity.
     We must open our eyes and see that the tide of torment in the streets is beginning to turn its attention to our faith. First it was the tearing down of statues that honored the history of our nation's Civil War. Now, I'm beginning to see the defacement of Christian statues and cries to tear dow Jesus. Evil is growing into a tsunami and history has shown us what can happen when such evil is allowed to foment unchecked.
       In the words of Spanish philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the end, we are responsible for our faith and our actions. I pray for hearts that are set on being obedient to the will of God. That's not a simple thing to do in this world. I pray that we all will have the courage of Desmond Doss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer... to be a bright light in the midst of this dark time in our nation's history; to be that unwilling hero to someone in need of the image of Christ in their life. And I know in my spirit that God will honor our actions on His behalf. He's just looking for willing participants.

I have written a series of posts on Dietrich Bonhoeffer from 2012-2016. This post is a compilation, along with added and relevant insight to current events.

Isaiah 50:7-8:  "But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near..."


  1. Looks like well all get to take the Boenhoeffer test before this all ends. Better decide now, what and how far the line is for you. Get your theology and cosmic world view nailed down so you absolutely know what you're capable of. When this thing fully manifest in the physical you may be required to push back in the physical. Get ready because spicy time is coming!

    1. Yes! And American Christians need to come out of their "normalcy bias" that this could never happen to us, and conquer the spirit of Fear that will shut them down. Know who you are in the Kingdom of God! Be like Bonhoeffer and prepare yourselves physically and spiritually to live your life (and die to it, if necessary), "entirely submissive to the will of God".