Meditation is Different than Application
Excerpted from Meeting God in Scripture by Jan Johnson
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
by Eric Metaxas
When I first hefted the giant paperback into my hands (550 pages!) and observed the small print on the pages, I hesitated. Still, it was Christmas break, and I love to read biographies or autobiographies about members of the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us. So, I began. I’m so thankful I did! While a good read, it was so much more. In fact, reading Bonhoeffer became an extended self-reflection, not unlike a guided retreat.
Metaxas skillfully weaves together Bonhoeffer’s early years with German history, creating a broad canvas of storytelling that unpacks both Dietrich’s unique childhood and Germany’s perfect preparation for the rise of Hitler. Bonhoeffer’s young adult years, and his unlikely call to become a pastor, occur against the backdrop of a descending darkness within his country. Throughout, Dietrich’s sense of righteous response guided his choices. Regarding his involvement in pretending to be in step with the regime, for the purpose of deeper opposition, Metaxas says: “Bonhoeffer’s willingness to engage in deception stemmed not from a cavalier attitude toward the truth, but from a respect for the truth that was so deep, it forced him beyond the easy legalism of truth telling.”
Yet, Bonhoeffer didn’t just work for the opposition; he founded an underground seminary through which he mentored many young men in their spiritual formation. He preached and worked for religious reform and response in the midst of a hostile government. Even after his arrest, he maintained a cheerful and peaceful countenance that itself was a testament to his relationship with God. Throughout the book, I found myself reflecting on his choices and comparing them to my own; perhaps the greatest recommendation any book can receive is that it challenges us to be better people. Bonhoeffer is just that sort of book.