Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have appreciated the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was among a small group of christians who stood against the Nazi empire. Despite being in exile in safety in the USA, Bonhoeffer recognised God’s call for him to return and bear witness in his home land, while Hitler was still in power. Bonhoeffer’s vocal opposition to Hitler, couple with a strong theological foundation, was a threat. When Bonhoeffer was implicated in plans to assassinate Hitler, he was imprisoned. In 1945, when it was clear that the war had been lost, Hitler had Bonhoeffer put to death: in some ways making him a 20th Century martyr.

I am currently reading ‘Life Together’ a treatise by Bonhoeffer on community, written just before World War 2. It became a source of inspiration for many pastors who witnessed against Hitler. Consider this snippet on thankfulness:

In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life.  Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.  We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.  We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.  We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.  How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from him the little things?  If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
This thought has stopped me in my tracks, as I have considered how I have expressed my thankfulness to God: and how failure to do so might have robbed me of greater things to be thankful for.

Is a time of thanksgiving to God overdue in your own life?

August 6, 2000
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