It’s not often that I sit at the back of the church. The view is different from my usual perch, beside the altar where I observe at bowed heads and dark hats. Someone else sitting there might see my head bowed.
The smell of beeswax vies with the scent of lilies. Patches of sunlight dance on the red carpet of the aisle.
I can appreciate why some people choose to sit here. There is comfort to be had being in church but not really at its heart. The physical distance between here and the altar perhaps reflects the distance a worshipper would prefer there to be between themselves and God.
Distance between God and myself would be welcome, but it’s not something I can achieve by sitting here. The still small voice refuses to confine itself to the front pews.
I hold the letter in my hands. The envelope, brown and coarse to the touch, bears my name, Krisof Bergen, in an untidy scrawl. I opened it earlier and know its contents. The single sentence is written in black ink.
“Bonhoeffer was executed this morning.”
My heart refuses to rejoice. We were not friends, he and I, but I cannot doubt my respect for the man. Who could not be moved by the words he wrote? Such insight and passion woven through the pages!
He was suspicious of Hilter’s rise to power. The church, always obedient to the authority of the state became his battle ground. He could not sanction the proposal to remove the Old Testament from the Bible. He bitterly opposed banning non-Aryans from becoming ministers.
“There are three battles to fight,” he said. “We must question the actions of the state and call the government to act with responsibility. We must help those who are victims of injustice – all of them. Then, we must stop those mechanisms that cause the injustice. We must if necessary fall into the spokes of the wheel to bring it to a halt.”
The Church did not listen, of course. Better to swim with the tide of patriotism.
But the pill of compliance was difficult to swallow.
Bonhoeffer wasn’t alone. Silence was impossible to maintain as fresh laws led to civil rights for Jews being removed completely. Many of my colleagues could no longer be “silent witnesses of evil deeds.”
I chose not to find out what Bonhoeffer was doing. I see now that I didn’t want the yoke he carried to fall on my shoulders. It was too easy to reason that Bonhoeffer was a sellout. He had abandoned the Church and Germany with it. But God’s eye is not fixed on Germany alone, is it?
I feel His eye fixed upon my heart. I have stifled compassion. Love that isn’t expressed becomes soured.
I should have shed tears when they burned the synagogues and silenced those who said it was God’s work poured out on those who had betrayed Christ. I have listened too long to lies to know the truth anymore.
I knew Bonhoeffer was out of the country. He should have stayed away. He insisted that if he stayed away from the battles in Germany, he would have no right to help build after the war.
His arrest and imprisonment was inevitable. Just how involved he was in the plot to kill Hilter remains unclear. I know Bonhoeffer used his position of authority, such that he had, to organise visas and sponsors to rescue Jews. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I thought about visiting. My heart encouraged me but my head held sway. Too dangerous, it said, to align yourself with such a dangerous man. I find myself to be a coward and the knowledge distresses me.
Would he look at me, and with his gaze, call me the sellout?
It’s too late now.
So here I sit, at the back of my church. Head bowed, and eyes closed I look like I am in prayer. And I am.
I do not pray for Bonhoeffer, or his soul, both of which are beyond my help and influence. I pray for myself.
I see before me his yoke.
I hear his voice.
“It’s your turn to fall into the spokes of the wheel to bring injustice to a halt.
Author's note: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a church leader who opposed Hilter and his policies. He was imprisoned and executed shortly before the end of the second World War.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.