Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

As I have been reading the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Rev. Dietrich BoenhoefferMartyr, Prophet, Spy), I have pored over translations of some of his books this past week. I am presenting here some of his comments about discipleship.

There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world. Ethics

I fear that today, we don’t so much try to withdraw from the world, as we are wont to cling to it.

The first call which every Christian experiences is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. The Cost of Discipleship

I have found this to be true in my life only recently.

Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus. The Cost of Discipleship

I’ve been taught this since I was a third-grader, and still I struggle to live this way.  I can find it most closely in the early morning, just before dawn, when I am praying.

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety. The Cost of Discipleship

This is so true.  For me, life was simpler when I had less than when I had to think all the time about how to keep what I have.

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves. The Cost of Discipleship

Interestingly, I find this harder to avoid than it should be.  Even when I am with a group that has been judged harshly, I find they often want to judge others who are just a little ‘worse than they are.’

Also, those who are disciples sometimes lose track of what it means.  Before worship recently, a beautiful matron in the Church, whom I see regularly in our sanctuary, asked me if I thought the homeless were for real or if they are just free-loaders.  She also proceeded to condemn a homeless woman who not only showed up to eat at our Church, but even came on Christmas Eve to dampen our festivities.

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died. Life Together


The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate. The Cost of Discipleship

I find that when I have pursued pacifism, I have been hated.  It is hard to understand.  but I’m not sure we can find our peaceful natures anymore.  Certainly it is not common in my world.


About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, an Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. I love working beside young people. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am going through a process to discern my calling, and to learn more about Christian Leadership. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
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5 Responses to Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

  1. Noel Williams (prhayz) says:

    Oh! I wish more people would read these wise words from Mr. Bonhoeffer. These are remarkably practical situations that we so often overlook. I thank you so much for sharing. God blesses.

  2. Pingback: What Grace Has Become | Resting in His Grace

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