The Price

Dietrich Bonnhoeffer lived and died in a time when much of the Church, both Protestant and Catholic, failed abysmally.

I’ve read that there were actually churches in Nazi Germany who took the cross down from over their altars and replaced it with the Nazi Swastika. Even many of those who did not do this in the physical sense did it in the moral and spiritual sense.

There were other Christian leaders who knew the Nazis were wrong and wanted to oppose them, but they confounded themselves by trying too hard to compromise and work with Hitler. They had the mistaken notion that they could find a way out of the crisis that didn’t involve going directly against the state.

Martin Niemoller’s famous quote was a result of his too-many and too-protracted attempts to negotiate with Hitler.

It should be remembered that Niemoller spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. He was not a failed pastor or a failed Christian. He was simply wrong in his early understanding of the evil he was dealing with.

Here is Niemoller’s quote. It conveys a thought that Christians today need to consider quite seriously.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bonnhoeffer, on the other hand, saw the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis early on. I often wonder what would have happened if the churches of every denomination in Germany had united and stood against Hitler’s murderous intentions from the beginning. Would he have succeeded in wreaking the havoc on the world that he did, or would the German people have forced him to alter his course?

Bonnhoeffer’s famous descriptions of cheap and costly grace are pertinent for American Christians today. Here they are:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of 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.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    I knew the main quote, of course, and it is one of my watchphrases. The others are new to me, and very powerful. Thank you.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      You’re welcome. They are meaningful to me, too.

  • EMS

    “I often wonder what would have happened if the churches of every denomination in Germany had united and stood against Hitler’s murderous intentions from the beginning.” Unfortunately, people didn’t realize what was really going to happen, save for a few. The Nazis didn’t start killing people when they were first voted in (and no, it was not a majority victory) or make their intentions known for a long time. The “Final Solution” for Jews didn’t come into existance until late 1941, years after the Nazis took over.

    The Church did have a rare victory when the Nazis began euthanizing mentally and physically disabled people. The Church protested vigorously, and the Nazis backed off. For awhile. Then the Nazis ignored the disabled and started attacking, or rather demonizing and dehumanizing Gypsies, the Jews, and anyone else they wanted. It all happened incrementally, one small step at a time. Numberless opponents of the Nazis, including religious people, started disappearing one by one into the concentration camps, all out of sight of the rest of the population. And by the time most people noticed, it was too late. The Nazis and their reign of terror was fully entrenched and the war made other concerns (survival for instance) far more important to most people than what was happening out of sight in the camps.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Good points, and something we should ponder as we consider how to proceed in this country.

  • vickie

    The other person who admire tangled with the other totalitarian system: Soviet Russia. One quote that people may find handy from Solzhenitsyn: “Don’t lie”…. He may be on to something here, compromising so much that you are forced to lie to keep a seat at the table or in his case, live as free man, destroys something in people; maybe allowing the manufacture of consent….

  • Ted Seeber

    Freedom without the right to life isn’t worth it.

    It just isn’t.

  • http://Devotions4Him Jennifer

    Dietrich Bonnhoeffer has been a favorite of mine for many years. This blog (as usual) is very thought provoking. God help us.

    “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.”


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