I’m not sure there is a book that has inspired and challenged me more deeply than the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas. The life of this German theologian and pastor is better than the movies, and I am still holding tightly to the rumor that a film will be coming in the future.
As I heard one university professor say, there has recently been a “Bonhoeffer awakening.” Many Christians, young and old, are taking a fresh interest in his life, devouring his books (i.e. The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together), and even forming groups to practice the communal disciplines he prescribed.
Of course his life was fascinating. One can’t help but be curious about a Christian pastor who also happened to be a double agent in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Regardless of one’s religious convictions, you have to respect a man that ultimately died for his specific spiritual devotion.
Despite the epic nature of Bonhoeffer’s life, I do not think these are the primary reasons for the “awakening” that has occurred over the last few years. I believe God himself is stoking this fire because today’s Jesus followers have specific things to learn from it. Here are just three of many things we can take away.
Three ways we can learn from Bonhoeffer’s life today:
1. Be Radically devoted to daily study and practice of God’s Word – he worked right through the Scriptures, consistently. Nothing fancy, no “just-open-and-see-where-your-finger-lands”- He was committed to a methodical, consistent study through books of the Bible. Bonhoeffer’s commitment to spiritual disciplines challenges Christians to not settle for a “pie-in-the-sky” faith that doesn’t translate into real action in the real world.
2. Be Radically engaged in the culture in which we live. He was a student of culture that loved to travel and explore, enjoying art and creativity and beauty on the earth. Christians today mustn’t settle for cultural disengagement that isolates from the most influential institutions and channels. We need to impact these places, not escape them. And we need to enjoy and create great art – our God is the ultimate creative!
3. Radically embrace a holistic theology. Bonhoeffer refused a disconnected Christianity that only validates certain areas of life. Instead, he understood that everything we do, we do to serve the Lord. Whether in the marketplace or in the pulpit, we are called to offer our gifts and passions, sharing the good news of Jesus in word and deed.
If you have not read the biography by Eric Metaxas yet, I’d highly recommend doing so. You may think, “Really, you want me to read a book that has over 500 pages?” Yes. And you will thank me later.
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