Posts Tagged ‘responding to the times’

As a young person I had little regard for history, but the longer I live, the more I understand the concept that “there is nothing new under the sun”.  Even though a circumstance may seem unprecedented within our own experience, it has surely been faced by someone, at some other point in time.  This principle became even clearer to me, a few years ago, as I read about the life and times of the German Pastor/Theologian, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer”; who was executed by the Nazis, just days before the end of World War II.


This gruesome ending stood in stark contrast to Bonhoeffer’s earliest days, which seemed almost idyllic.  Born into a prosperous Christian family, he was proud of his German heritage, and unashamed of his faith.  As a young man, his love of country and his devotion to the church didn’t seem to be in conflict, but the world around him was quietly changing.  In the early1930s, he studied in the United States, and when asked about the caustic rhetoric of emerging party leader, “Adolph Hitler”, Dietrich expressed utter confidence that his beloved nation and it’s countrymen would never allow such a man to come to power.  Much to his dismay, Hitler was appointed Chancellor just a few years later, and rose to prominence based largely on an improving economy, and the idea that he was restoring Germany to it’s former grandeur.  Bonhoeffer’s disillusionment continued as the Third Reich came into power, and the people seemingly turned a blind eye to their abuse of authority.


For the first time in his life, he felt as though his country and his faith were at odds, and that he had to choose a side.  But even that proved difficult, as the majority of national church leaders decided to submit to the demands of the Nazi regime.  Bonhoeffer quickly found that he’d not only become an outcast within this new society, but that he’d also become an outcast within the church he’d grown up and been ordained in.  Against this chaotic backdrop, he contended to walk out his faith in a legitimate way, and decades later, his words, his life, and even his death, continue to inspire fellow pilgrims.  As I read his story, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to my own journey.


Like him, I was born into a secure Christian family, within a country that I have always loved.  Like him, I grew up with confidence that America would never abandon the core principles upon which it was founded, or completely turn its back on its Judeo-Christian heritage.  Like him, I’ve found that my faith is consistently coming into conflict with the emerging society, and that increasingly I cannot endorse what is now being deemed as acceptable.  Like him, I have been appalled to watch the response of mainstream religion to this crisis, and am concerned about the growing government involvement in the day to day lives of the people.  Like him, I now find myself on the fringe of the culture, and of the religion from whence I came.


At this point, it’s hard to say what lies ahead.  Certainly, our situation doesn’t look as bleak, or seem as threatening as Nazi Germany.  But things are changing fast, and seem to be picking up momentum.  I’m not really sure who “we” (i.e. our collective national character) are anymore, so it’s impossible to know what “we” are capable of.  There is no doubt that such things are far beyond my control, so ultimately it comes down to a personal decision; a decision about how to respond to this new reality.


Like Pastor Bonhoeffer, I find myself contending with the spirits that fuel the culture, so as to walk out my faith in authentic way.  The compulsion to raise my voice isn’t as strong as my desire to hear the voice of my Father more clearly.  My heart is not to rebel against this illegitimate authority, but to submit to the genuine authority of the Lord.  His Spirit reminds me that my sense of truth and reality cannot be derived by what is “seen”, but must be rooted in what is “unseen”.  Now, more than ever, we must have the mind of Christ, the heart of the Father, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Here are a few thoughts from Bonhoeffer’s journey:


“Politics are not the task of a Christian.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“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.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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