Today, in 1906, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born. In the years since, his story has been told many times over – in biographies, documentaries, countless sermons, and of course in his own words too through his amazing, beautiful, and powerful (and convicting) writings. For those who are unfamiliar with him, check this site – it is a short bio of him that hits many of the key points of his life.
But the thing that has always struck me when I read of Bonhoeffer’s life and actions was that our faith had to go deep. It needed to get beyond the outer shell. It needed to have deep roots. It needed to move beyond what might be frozen on the outside to the depth of water beneath. This was evident in his writings on the Christian community in Life Together, in his words about what it means to follow in The Cost of Discipleshipa, in how we make decisions when he wrote Ethics, and truly in the way he lived (and died).
Mark 7 begins with a disagreement between Jesus and some of the religious leaders about external acts of faith – “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Jesus’ response was to go to Isaiah who wrote about how the people honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from God. The “discussion” continues for several verses along the same lines. But the crux of it is that the interior life has to be transformed by the power of God and then our visible actions matching what we say we believe and who we say we follow.
Bonhoeffer challenged the church of his day to resist and stand up against the evil of the Nazi regime. He challenged the ways that the church capitulated to the regime out of fear, or out of a sense of privilege, or because it was “easy.” Truly standing up for the work of God in the world is scary and dangerous and hard to do. I know there have been too many times that I turn the other way, where I want to focus on the washing of the hands rather than what is deeper and more necessary.
Bonhoeffer’s words are not just for the past but they are so incredibly relevant for today in the ways that in all that is swirling around us in the world today that the church needs to be the visible, active, bold, courageous, and powerful Body of Christ that we are. We need to allow the light of Christ to melt away the frozen outer shell, to burn brightly into every part of our lives, and to be transformed from the inside out so that we can be a part of the transforming work of the Kingdom of God in the world.