April 9th marks 68 years since the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a pastor and trained theologian. He was a brilliant man who graduated with his doctorate from the University of Berlin when he was twenty-one.
Bonhoeffer was born at a time when he found himself caught in the middle of Nazi Germany. He was vocal against the teachings and policies of Hitler. In fact, two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address where he attacked Hitler’s policies and warned the German people that Hitler wasn’t a leader but was actually an anti-leader. Bonhoeffer was cut off the air in mid sentence.
In1935, Bonhoeffer established an underground seminary for the anti-Nazi church. He secretly trained pastors throughout Germany and continued to be vocal against Nazi policies on the treatment of the Jews and those being persecuted. Eventually the Nazis became so aggravated with Bonhoffer that they would no longer permit Bonhoeffer to publish any of his writings.
In 1943, just months after his wedding engagement, Bonhoeffer was arrested (and charged with conspiring to rescue Jews) and eventually moved to the Buchenwald concentration camp. As he was being led away by the SS, he said, “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.” Two weeks before U.S. soldiers liberated his camp, Bonhoeffer was hung.
A German medical officer who witnessed the hanging said, “I saw pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
We can learn much from the life of Bonhoeffer. He was not afraid to follow Biblical teachings and take action on his beliefs. In fact, Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
So today I will challenge you. When you hear worldviews that aren’t Biblical are you speaking up? When you see people who need to know about Christ are you telling them? When the Bible commands you to do something, don’t be afraid to speak and don’t be afraid to act. God’s Kingdom needs you. God needs all of us to be actively doing His will. God is not looking for silent Christians.
Remember what Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. “ Don’t let God find you in silence.