I first became acquainted with Dietrich Bonhoeffer as an 18-year old when a youth leader in my church started a study on Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. The famous line from the 1st chapter of that book is etched in my memory:
"When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die."Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born into a distinguished family in Berlin. His father, an agnostic, was a prominent psychiatrist. His mother was a sincere and thoughtful Christian. The family's daily life was filled with Bible reading and hymn singing, orchestrated by Mrs. Bonhoeffer. At 14, Bonhoeffer announced he would pursue a career in theology, against his family's expectations.
When Hitler was elected to office, the Nazis rapidly seized control of all areas of German life, including the churches. Bonhoeffer was dismayed when the German church allowed itself to be co-opted by Hitler. Following Hitler's wishes, the German church banned non-Aryans from ministry.
Believing that Christ, not the state, was head of the church, Bonhoeffer helped organize the Confessing Church at age 28. A year later he founded an underground seminary to train pastors. Bonhoeffer taught his students the discipline of daily scripture meditation, helping them approach the verses as though they were God's word to them personally.
As Hitler became more maniacal, Bonhoeffer came to believe he must take action to save his country and the countless lives Hitler was destroying. As a result, Bonhoeffer involved himself in a plot to kill Hitler. He saw this as an act of obedience to God. When his role in the conspiracy was discovered, Bonhoeffer was arrested.
His famous sentence - When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die - was fulfilled in Bonhoeffer's life when he was executed by the Nazis at age 39.
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