I love history and like most people who love history I love learning about World War II. I cannot tell you why World War II sticks out to me so much, or why I enjoy learning about it, but I do. When I first heard about Eric Metaxas’ book “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” I was intrigued, but had no idea who this Bonhoeffer was. The subtitle was what really caught my attention and then when I heard that Bonhoeffer was German and was a part of the resistance and attempted assassinations of Hitler, I knew I had to read the book.
When I tell people that I am going to Germany as a missionary one of the most common questions I get is, what are Germans like? Most people that I come across in the US have this negative stereotype of all Germans as being mean, stuck up and stand-offish. When I tell them that they aren’t that way people seem to be confused, like everything they ever knew about Germans was all of a sudden the complete opposite. Sure there are some mean, stuck up and stand-offish Germans, but then again that happens everywhere in the world.
I think Americans struggle with the idea that a country that was responsible for things like World War II and the Holocaust could have good people living within it’s borders. That stereotype still exists for Germans, but even while those events were happening there were good, godly people within Germany who were trying to make a difference. That is why I loved this book. Not only did it give me background information on the amazing man and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it also showed me that men like him struggle to do the right thing just like I do. A quote by Henning Von Tresckow (one of the organizers of the Hitler resistance and Valkyrie assassination plot) that Mr. Metaxas uses seems almost prophetic. He says:
The German people will be burdened with a guilt the world will not forget in a hundred years.
If you search the internet you will see many reviews of the book and if you have read any of my reviews on my site you will know that that is not exactly how I like to do things. I liked the book a lot, but I can’t sit here and tell you that you should read it when there are so many incredible books available to read. What I can and will try to do is highlights specific parts of the book and talk about them briefly and if something sticks out to you then I can say you will not regret picking up this book.
Bonhoeffer often worked with children and “he often said that if one couldn’t communicate the most profound ideas about God and the Bible to children, something was amiss. There was more to life than academia.”
I love this idea because if we can’t simplify the Gospel then do we really know it? I encourage everyone to work with children in their church and teach them, you won’t regret it!
“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is; there is never loneliness.”
I can’t add anything to this another than an enthusiastic amen!
“the whole of world history there is always only one really significant hour—the present.”
This is hard and convicting to me because too often I am wasting the present. What are you doing right now for your family, for you, for Christ. Right now is what is important. We are not promised tomorrow!
There is no single quote for me to give you about how Bonhoeffer struggled with his decision to help with the assassination plot, but know that he did and please read the book if you are wondering how he did that. There is way more detail to that decision than I could possibly share here. I can tell you that I am looking forward to visiting some of the Bonhoeffer sites while I am in Germany and I want to leave you with a prayer that Bonhoeffer wrote while in prison. Let these words soak in you and be your prayer today and every day.
Early in the morning do I cry unto thee.
Help me to pray,
And to think only of thee.
I cannot pray alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with thee there is light.
I am lonely, but thou leavest me not.
I am feeble in heart, but thou leavest me not.
I am restless, but with thee there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with thee there is patience;
Thy ways are past understanding, but
Thou knowest the way for me.
I have been working on reading fifteen books this year that I called theology books, but in truth not all of them are “theology” books. Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas is a great example of what I mean. It is not a theology book, but a biography of a normal man (William Wilberforce) who did extraordinary things because of the radical transformation that was made in him when He started to have a relationship with Jesus.
This book was a nice break from reading about how to change my life to fit more closely to the way God intended. It’s not that I don’t need to hear those things, but reading about a man, his struggles and triumphs inspired me a lot. For those of you who don’t know who William Wilberforce is he was the driving force behind ending the slave trade in England and eventually freeing the slaves in all of the provinces under English control. Wilberforce did many other things to which I cannot address because I would have to literally rewrite Metaxas’ book and he did a great job so I’ll just touch on what was most encouraging to me.
With the elections coming soon it is easy to get frustrated by those that are constantly running for office with suspect character, but even though Wilberforce was from a different country and time, he was a politician and that gives me hope that someone here could rise up in the ranks like Wilberforce did and greatly influence our country for God and not for themselves.
One of the best statements in the whole book came in the introduction. In Wilberforce’s time slavery was viewed as a good thing that helped all parties. Metaxas said, “Wilberforce murdered that old way of seeing things, and so the idea that slavery was good died along with it. Even though slavery continues to exist here and there, the idea that it is good is dead.” Wilberforce helped people see slavery for what it really was, a horrible and disgusting institution. Could you imagine changing people’s belief about something. I am not talking just a friend or two, but imagine everyone in the world for a long time to come adapting your viewpoint and then doing something about it that led to a ridiculous amount of lives saved. Yeah, that is incredible!
I will leave you all with a quote from one of Wilberforce’s speeches in Parliament and hope that this will inspire all of us to stand up for doing what is Biblical no matter what popular opinions dictate.
“Policy, Sir, is not my principle, and I am not ashamed to say it. There is a principle above everything that is political. And when I reflect on the command that says, ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ believing the authority to be divine, how can I dare set up any reasonings of my own against it? And, Sir, when we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is here in this life which should make any man contradict the principles of his own conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God?”
Thank you Mr. Metaxas for writing this book and reminding us about someone who did not live for himself, but for God and all of God’s creation. That is a lesson we can learn and apply to our lives no matter who and where we are.
I like to read and most times don’t read enough, but I also like to find out what others are reading to add to my long list of books to read in the future.
Here’s my question, what are you reading right now and would you recommend it?
I am currently reading Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas about William Wilberforce who helped bring about the end of the slave trade in England. It is a very good book that is reminding me that God uses all types of people in all types of areas to bring about His plan. i will have a more detailed blog about my thoughts on this book as soon as I finish it.
I am also reading a book I got a while back called When Darkness Falls by James Grippando. I got it when it was free so I thought it was worth a shot. So far it is pretty good, but I am not too far yet.