Bonhoeffer's Most Challenging Quotes
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24 of Bonhoeffer’s Most Challenging Quotes

Wisdom for instituting change.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident, key founding member of the Confessing Church as well as one of the most influential spiritual voices across the globe for decades. It’s a good thing for the modern Church that Bonhoeffer was determined in his course.

Bonhoeffer grew up amid the academic circles of the University of Berlin, where his father, Karl Bonhoeffer, was a professor of psychiatry and neurology and was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21. He also studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1930–1931. During that time he attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and became deeply interested in the issue of racial injustice.

Bonhoeffer’s involvement in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution on the 9th April 1945.

More than seventy years after his death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on faith, the Church, ethics and the nature of God serve as a touchstone for all of us who seek to understand a Christian’s responsibility in the face of injustice and have gone on to have a profound influence on Western Culture and the legions of Christian thinkers who’ve encountered them ever since. He also remains an important symbol of opposition to Hitler.

Here’s a look back at some of Bonhoeffer’s most powerful quotes. 

ON GRACE 

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

ON JUDGING OTHERS

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

ON LIFE 

“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

ON SIN

“May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner.”

ON JUDGING

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

ON SERVING GOD

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

ON GOD’S LOVE

“God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.”

ON GOD’S WILL

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

ON SERVING OTHERS 

“The Church is the Church only when it exists for others, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”

ON OBEDIENCE

“One act of obedience is worth a hundred sermons.” 

ON EVIL 

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

ON STANDING UP FOR INJUSTICE

“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.”

ON GRATITUDE

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

ON FOLLOWING CHRIST

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

ON INJUSTICE

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

ON PEACE

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

ON ‘DEFENDING’ THE BIBLE

“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

ON REAL MORALITY

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

ON PEOPLE 

“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

ON SPIRITUALITY

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”

ON FELLOWSHIP

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.”

ON PROOF OF GOD

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”

ON THE FUTURE

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

Written by GODINTEREST

GODINTEREST is a digital media website for Christians to express their ideas and share their work on their own terms through writing, conversation, and other media.

12 Comments

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  1. I really enjoyed these and will carefully meditate on them. Thank you for sharing! God bless you!!

  2. “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.”
    This quote is so riveting. The world today is filled with madmen. All around the globe innocent people are literally being mowed down by vehicles in the name of hate. Great post.
    💜

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