Finally! My review of: “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy”

I have been trudging through Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy now for at least 3 months. It feels like forever. But to be fair, I was going at a snail’s pace. All I could read was about 2 pages a night, and then I’d be too tired to read any further, so I’d fall sleep. Obviously my pace was an issue. But finally, I got through it. And I’m so glad I did.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a fascinating man to me. When I first heard about the pastor who was in a conspiracy to kill Hitler, my mind was boggled. “But wait. I thought he was a Christian, even a pastor!” was my first thought. How could he square conspiring to kill someone with his convictions as a Believer? I could sort of understand because we’re talking about killing Hitler here. The man was evil incarnate and out of his mind. But on the other hand, I couldn’t understand why Bonhoeffer, a pastor, would participate in a plot to kill someone, let alone, technically, the leader of his country.

A Happy Warrior

I was listening to Heidi St. John the other day and she referred to a poem by William Wordsworth, “The Happy Warrior.” What an interesting title, right? It seems to be an oxymoron. But as she explained the poem, I thought to myself this captures Dietrich Bonhoeffer perfectly. He was the epitome of “a happy warrior.” He stood for what was right, despite what others said or did. Despite the potential misunderstandings that could have happened. He was a warrior for Christ’s kingdom, willing to do what He knew the LORD was telling him to do. But he was also a kind and good man. Even his captors took a liking to him. And remember, these are hardened Nazi guards. That is incredible.

That man never took up arms, but he knew he must fight for what was right. I loved how the author, Eric Metaxas, clearly communicated his struggle between fighting for his home or fighting his own wicked government. He could see long before Hitler was officially in complete control of the country there was something terribly wrong with that man. Repeatedly, he warned others in the church to beware of this charismatic leader. But to no avail. Hitler was too popular and too successful. Those in the church thought that somehow, Hitler could be redeemed or convinced to choose to do what was right. History tells us how wrong they were.

God’s preparation

Before Hitler’s rise to power, there were indications that God was preparing Bonhoeffer for his role in the plot to kill Hitler. When he was just 28 years old, he gave a powerful sermon which parts of are still quoted today:

For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

pg. 241

Another telling quote in the book was in a letter written in 1938, when people within the Confessing Church were cowering in fear:

…we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful”: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.

pg. 318

Such a beautiful statement, and wow, so convicting. It’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t working out the way we had expected when we take a step of faith. But since we don’t have God’s perspective, we must trust that He knows what He’s doing. We must also have faith that despite what things may look like, our obedience is ALWAYS the right thing to do.

My Take-Aways

The biggest take away for me from this book is that although obedience can be costly, Christ is worth it. I think I remind my kids this daily: “Whether or not you want to, whether or not you understand, you need to listen and obey.” Obviously this morphs a bit as the kids get older, but I’m certain all of you understand the point. Often we may think that doing things in a different, more palatable way (by the culture’s standard) is the best thing to do. But God’s ways are always best.

Yet another quote from Bonhoeffer speaks to this clearly and succintly:

…but when someone asked Bonhoeffer whether he shouldn’t join the German Christians in order to work against them from within, he answered that he couldn’t. “If you board the wrong train,” he said, “it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.”

pg. 187

Another take away was the eternal perspective. I thought a lot about the fact that Bonhoeffer was killed out of spite. It was so incredibly wicked. Hitler knew the walls were closing in and he was about to lose the war, but he didn’t care. He wanted to seek revenge on those who he perceived as betraying him. Bonhoeffer had been in prison for several years already, but that wasn’t enough. Hitler had Bonhoeffer searched for and then hung. Just two short weeks before Hitler killed himself and the war was over.

More than meets the eye

At first glance, this seems so incredibly unfair. But then God reminded me, He has a much different perspective, besides the fact that death is not the end of the story. There is so much more than what we can see. For those who walk with Christ, despite what looks like tragedies and untimely deaths, we will always have the victory.

I pray more more men and women follow in the footsteps of Bonhoeffer. I pray they are successful in the eyes of God, and focus more on pleasing God than pleasing their fellow man.

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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