I’m not a fan of everything Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to say, but there are some things that were just the plain truth. If anything, Bonhoeffer was a man that stuck to his beliefs, and proved that he would make the ultmiate sacrifice despite a good many being against his voice.
The book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” has received both criticism and acclaim, for its theological ideas on God, Christ, and the role of the Christian in specific. Much of the criticism was received however, after the 60s movement that had twisted much of his words to mean nothing more than how to operate as a so called “believer” without much effort put into true salvation through Christ. Bonhoeffer never intended that to happen, but nonetheless, like much of today (including the SBNR movement), it served as the enemy’s way of counteracting true reformation and hard-thinking within the Church Body. Though I don’t agree with everything Bonhoeffer had to say, I do agree that some of his words and full meanings have been twisted over time.
Anyway, I’m not here to debate him, I’m here to speak on a small but powerful passage he wrote in one of his books. Discipleship is the key to real change, and real reformation in the church. It can heal, restore, and reform an entire generation and bleed over into the generations that come after.
I love this quote that is found in the above mentioned book:
“If the world despises one of the brethren, the Christian will love and serve him. If the world does him violence, the Christian will succour and comfort him. If the world dishonours and insults him, the Christian will sacrifice his own honour to cover his brother’s shame. Where the world seeks gain, the Christian will renounce it. Where the world exploits, he will dispossess himself, and where the world oppresses, he will stoop down and raise up the oppressed. If the world takes refuge in lies, he will open his mouth for the dumb, and bear testimony to the truth. For the sake of the brother, be he Jew or Greek, bond or free, strong or weak, noble or base, he will renounce all fellowship with the world. For the Christian serves the fellowship of the Body of Christ, and he cannot hide it from the world. He is called out of the world to follow Christ.”
It’s ONE of the truest, most sincere things I’ve read from him. It rings true to how the Body is supposed to effectively operate within the church and most importantly outside of it within the community. But, I love the following line the most: “If the world dishonours and insults him, the Christian will sacrifice his own honour to cover his brother’s shame.” WOW! Now maybe this hits me so hard, because it’s something I’ve been experiencing, and trying my absolute hardest to do lately. I’ve been punched, beat down, kicked, and burned in recent weeks — or at least… it has certainly felt that way. I’d be lying if I said there had been some part of me (small, but nonetheless there) that desired at one point to return the favor. Not very Godly, nor “Christian-like,” nor spiritual, huh? I would tend to agree. My flesh kicked in so hard the first few days after what I had faced, I didn’t know if I was coming or going!
But, I’ve tried to maintain some form of sensibility, relinquishing my pride, and felt the persistent tug by my Spirit-man to “let go and let God.” I felt God telling me that the shame was mine to bear, not because I should be ashamed for something God had already restored and freed me from and had been covered under the blood, but so that my brothers and sisters in Christ who played a role (no matter how big or small) may not be brought to shame because of my own desire for vindication and redeemption in the mist of what I myself had been put through. Now, the words of Bonhoeffer in this particular quote wasn’t referring to specifically Christians perse, but to a ANY man (saved or not) and how a Christian should act and respond accordingly to said man. But it applies nonetheless.
You see, I know my past as a child and as a teenager. I know the shame that followed, where I actively and knowingly deceived others ( one individual in particular) because they showed TRUE discipleship and love; and it frightened me. For the first time in my life did it really begin to sink in, when I was told it was “not [my] fault.” Now I had heard it all before, but this was different. These weren’t family members, or family counselors, or childhood friends. This was a Christian woman who sacrificed much for the benefit of my own restoration. It scared me senseless, because she TRULY understood. That was something I had NEVER truly encountered before, nor thought it was even a possibility. And so in my mind, it seemed feasible to create a bubble so fantastical that she could no longer touch the truth and pain of my life; and in some effort I had hoped it would make her run from me and abandon me. But she did not leave. She did not go. She stuck by me even with the knowledge that she knew that my truths were half-truths, because she understood it was fear and an effort to guard my heart because I could not trust. I did not truly learn that restoration was possible and attainable, and that the thinking of how emotional and physical abuse, and what can result from it, did not have to rule my life until I was in my 20s! And that occured with my first TRUE encounter with God that came with conviction, repentance, and forgiveness from the one I had hurt the most because of my past that contained a damaged and broken heart. A past that made trust, a risk not worth taking.
So here I was, nine/ten years later, being forced to face a past that had been covered by the Blood (repentance, forgiveness, restoration and a turning away from said sin), and I had a choice to make. Turn and fight, like a wounded animal cornered by its attackers in pride and hurt and anger, or weigh and risk the cost of true love and discipleship.
Don’t get me wrong… this is not ego speaking. Please believe me, it’s not. And every side has their stories. I can only share my own. This is not some form of me saying, “Well I’m the better person, because I took the high road.” That has nothing to do with it; and I can tell you right now that thought wise, I certainly have been struggling on taking the high road! I’m not talking about self, folks. I’m talking about the Word and the actions we take as a result of it. I’m talking about listening to that small voice that tells you — instructs you — in how to behave, and react, and in how to face your troubles head on WITH LOVE. And not independently, but co-dependently with God.
I say co-dependently, because are we not in coopeartion with God, when we conciously make the effort to allow Him to take the yoke? Is it not by our choice (the second greatest gift God gave us, the first being Jesus) to allow God to move freely in our lives, that we cooperate with God to move more effectively in and around us? Do we not co-dependently work with God, if we were to follow such demands of discipleship (as quoted above) without thought to ourselves, but only for the sake of others? One of the pastor’s of my church ends every blog entry the same way… “None of us live for ourself.” That, my friends, IS true discipleship. When you can learn to set aside and sacrifice yourself for the sake and love of another.
It sounds cliche, but I’ll say it anyway… “It’s all about love. Love, love, love!” Christ has called each and everyone one of us to be a disciple. It is no coincidence that his Sermon on the Mount encompassed, through and through, one single notion… LOVE. Everything that we are to be, everything we are to accomplish, can only happen when we learn to love. And loving any and all people, with a sacrificial type of love, is part of being a disciple.
I’ll leave you with this —
Read the quote from Bonhoeffer again. And now, again. Now a third time, for good measure. Ask yourself, do you know the cost of being a disciple? If so, have you made that cost and actively making it even now? If not, go back to the Word, and read it, again and again, until you are not only familiar with the Words of Christ — the Words of God; but that you eat it, consume it, and allow it to consume you. Go to 1 John, Hebrews, Romans, Matthew 5! See if it does not change the way you think. You will, and you should. You will see a change in how you look at your friends, your family, yourself, your church, and your community, and most importantly… God. You’ll find yourself re-evaluating your priorities, and then soon the “cost of discipleship” won’t seem like much of a sacrifice at all.
Think about it.
I love you, guys!