On the morning of April 9, 1945, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp. The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung, later remembered:
[Just before the execution] “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to God…so certain that God heard his prayer…I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Others testified that, up to his last day, the 39 year old Bonhoeffer remained cheerful. He knew what he had to do, was reconciled to God’s will, and was able to climb the steps to the gallows “brave and composed.”
Who was this man who died so bravely–who Hitler himself, from his bunker beneath Berlin just three weeks before his suicide, ordered to be “destroyed?”
Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer is a gripping picture into the heart of Christ-follower who seeks to be faithful in a very difficult time.
Metaxas emphasizes Bonhoeffer’s theology and how it played out in his life. In contrast to “cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer believed that true grace influences all aspects of a Christian’s life. Christianity is more than going to church. It requires believers to be willing to sacrifice everything to God. Christianity is also more than legalistic morality. Ethics, according to Bonhoeffer, can’t be reduced to a set of rules. These beliefs are what led this humble and devout follower of Christ to be involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
Instead of buying a new coat this winter, wear the old one and use the money to purchase Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.
One week before his execution, Bonhoeffer wrote his famous poem, “Who Am I?” It gives a glimpse into the heart of this Christ-follower’s struggles in prison and his final resolution.
Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.