Friday, January 20, 2006

Bonhoeffer after 100 Years

As Bidwell Presbyterian is set to begin a series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I turned again to the powerful commentary on that passage by the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What struck me once again--in an age of "Christianity lite," in which any hint of demand on the lips of Christ is resisted as unmarketable--is that Bonhoeffer took the full impact of Christ's commands and sought to step in his shoes. Where Would Jesus Walk? The German title of that commentary on Matthew 5-7 is simply "discipleship," or more literally, "following after." Following after Jesus meant for Bonhoeffer that he explored the growing secularism of Western culture and responded with a provocative concept of "religionless Christianity." Following after Jesus meant for Bonhoeffer that he had to leave his privileged Berlin life and create a community intentionally modeled after the words of the Sermon on the Mount. Following after Jesus meant that Bonhoeffer ultimately decided to resist Hitler--even to the point of taking part in an assassination attempt--and thus he walked to the Nazi gallows, meeting his death at the hands of the SS. For Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, following after Jesus meant not simply writing books and pondering Jesus' words--and it never meant "cheap grace"--but the costly grace of discipleship.

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