Tuesday, August 27, 2013


One of the things that I found stimulating and challenging in reading Metaxas' Bonhoeffer was the sense of clear direction.  In Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we are presented with a man who knew what he ought to be doing, and as a rule did exactly that.  It may just be a trick of the biographer - after all, in writing a story, even a life story, one inevitably seeks out a thread that runs through, something that ties everything together - but it seems to me that there is enough in the original sources to justify the perception that Bonhoeffer's life was directed.  I can think of very few Christians of my acquaintance who show that with any clarity, and I can't help but wonder why it is that most of us (including myself) seem to be flummoxed by the question of what we ought to do with our lives.

Is it, perhaps, that we are not listening?  Bonhoeffer had deep pietistic tendencies, and was devoted to daily meditation on Scripture and prayer.  He took Scripture seriously as the address of God to him in the here and now, and not just a collection of past revelations.  Might there be a lack in our devotional practices?

Is it, perhaps, that we are not thinking?  Bonhoeffer analysed his own situation in the light of the gospel, and was very much aware of the needs of the hour.  Despite his pietistic leanings, he certainly did not retreat into individualistic piety, but sought the good of the society in which he lived.  He had an uncommon intellectual ability, of course, and an insight to which few could aspire.  But still, I wonder if we might not be thinking clearly.

Is it, perhaps, that we are unbelieving?  In the final analysis, Bonhoeffer did what he believed to be right.  He pursued his calling.  Only knowing that God directs ours steps (and trusting that he forgives our missteps) can make anyone free to do this.  From what I know of my own heart, I fear that sometimes we do not know what we ought to do simply because we do not trust God with our lives.

If anyone has any answers, I'd love to hear them.  How can we serve the purposes of God in our generation?


  1. Malie8:51 am

    Still have many incoherent thoughts on this one and no real answers. Visited an exhibition dedicated to the German Resistance Movement two days ago to try and understand Bonhoeffer's conviction within the context of the society that he lived in. Although not entirely wrong, I sometimes think that as a generation, we place too much value on engaging in causes that we think will have 'real impact' or will be 'world-changing'. When you do, however, look back on the lives of people who ended up being part of movements that really changed society, they often did not know that that was what they were doing. They were often taking small steps in humble obedience to God and His word and taking seriously their responisibility to be a part of the societies that they found themselves in. When they saw actions which did not respect the image of God in their neighbours, they spoke up or took some form of action. Bonhoeffer seemed to combine his listening to and believing in God with a deep sense of commitment to loving his neighbour. I don't think there's a clear answer to any of your questions and these are probably questions that I'll keep thinking about over a long period of time.

    1. Malie, I think you must be right. One reason we don't know what to do with our *lives* is that we haven't done what we know we ought to have done with *today*. Small steps, living responsibly before God. Challenging.