Those of you who know me well, know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes, and has been for years. The first 'real' theology book I read was 'The Cost of Discipleship." My favorite present from my fourteenth birthday was Bonhoeffer's biography. I spent a month last summer working through his 'Ethics'. His books make him real to me.
Books are magical. The words in them can challenge us, guide us, instruct us, and even protect us. Books provide us with mentors and conversation partners that we would otherwise never come in contact with. Books are dangerous.
A couple of years ago, I left a copy of Bonhoeffer's 'The Cost of Discipleship' in the youth room. I came back for it a few days later, and couldn't find it anywhere. It turned out that the youth minister had it in his office. When I went to get it from him, he took it off of his shelf, handed it to me and said, "I couldn't just keep this lying around. It's a dangerous book." My response was, "Our faith is a dangerous faith."
Indeed, it is a dangerous book. Bonhoeffer writes, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." I often wonder if I'm following that call. Have I gone where he bids me to go? Am I living in this way? We as Christians are called to a sacrificial life. And this leads me -- and others, I'm sure -- to the question of whether or not I am holy enough: whether or not I am good enough for this faith and this God. I know that these questions are questions that we don't often give voice to. Of course I am good enough, because it is not at all about being 'good enough'. I know that, and most of you know that. But the questions still remain -- spoken or unspoken -- in the deepest part of our hearts. Often, we are trying desperately to fashion ourselves into faithful people.
I was pondering all of this the other day, when I came across a bit of Bonhoeffer's writings from prison.
Dietrich writes (from Tegel prison), "For a long time... I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or something like it. I suppose I wrote 'The Cost of Discipleship' as the end of that path. Today I see the dangers of that book, though I still stand by what I wrote. I discovered later, and am still discovering up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be saint, or a converted siner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or healthy one."
One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself...
I read this, and I think, "Thank God." Thank God.