The Social Justice Christianity of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the heroes of my faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He refused to silently watch as evil was at work where he lived. He risked all to follow Christ and serve mankind and in the end paid the ultimate sacrifice in a concentration camp. Even with all the wealth and education his family could afford, in the end it was no protection against the Nazi fury.

It was almost like Dietrich was two different men: the scholar and theologian; and the activist surrounded by controversy. To Bonhoeffer, being a Christian reconciled the two prominent parts of his persona. He could not be a disciple of Christ without being an activist against things that he was convinced that God hated. Imprisoned for being suspect of a plot to kill Hitler, he was hung just before the end of the war.

In today’s world, there are many who need champions, and perhaps unlike Dietrich, I will remain silent about which causes you should choose. Instead, I will trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you through Scripture to the mission He has personally called you to. Whatever the cause, allow these ten Bonhoeffer quotes to inspire you to fight without thought for your own safety and reputation.

Ten Bonhoeffer Quotes Sure to Inspire

  • “Silence in the face of evil, is in itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
  • “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”
  • “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”
  • “Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you your life.”
  • “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into tranquil joy.” 
  • “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”
  • “Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ.”
  • “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller.”
  • “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
  • “A righteous person is one who lives for the next generation.”

My hope is that these words have inspired you to bid your calling. If you’d like to know more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, here are a few suggestions: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas