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“Death is Grace” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonheffer (by Eric Metaxas)

I recently finished reading Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  Over 542 pages, Metaxas details the complicated yet inspiring  life of Bonhoeffer.  Born to an affluent German family in 1906, Bonhoeffer was later murdered in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945, just weeks before the end of World War II.

It has been interesting to observe other people’s reactions when they learned that I was reading a biography of Bonhoeffer.  Several remarked that they had greatly benefited from reading the same book.  Others remarked with some degree of surprise.  It was as if they were saying, “Why would you want to read about him?”

In my experience (in mostly independent Baptist circles), Bonhoeffer is a somewhat polarizing figure.  People either love him or hate him.  After reading this book, I think it is safe to say that many Christians know very little about his life.  Very little about his life was easy.  I cannot imagine what it was like to be a German Christian during the 1930s and 1940s.

Consider these words that Bonhoeffer preached while serving as a pastor in London:

“No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.

Whether we are young or old makes no difference.  What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God?  And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal?  That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up – that is for young and old alike to think about.  Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ….Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it.  Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word.  Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves.  Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him.  Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

How do we know that dying is so dreadful?  Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith.  But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Metaxas, p. 531)

You should read this story.  In my opinion, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy is a ‘must read’ for all genuine Christians.  Learn what it means to follow Christ by studying his life.  It will stir your conscience and move you to evaluate your convictions and beliefs.

This book is available from:

  • Westminster Books (WTS) – they currently advertise the cheapest paperback price ($13.78)
  • ChristianBook.com (CBD) – roughly the same price as WTS; they also offer an ebook format and some slighly imperfect copies at reduced prices.
  • Amazon –  they offer multiple formats; best place to buy if you plan to read on your Kindle