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My Favorite Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Updated on January 10, 2013
Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Deitrich Bonhoeffer

I was first introduced to the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer when I happened to read his book Letters & Papers from Prison. I found myself intrigued by his depth of thought. None less would be expected from a man whose father was a brain chemist and whose brother worked with Albert Einstein. I then began to read everything I could, by him and about him. Then in 2010 I read the just released biography: Bonhoeffer; Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. This deepened my understanding and increased my respect for Bonhoeffer and the courage he had to live out his faith and his convictions in the midst of the evil of Holocaust. During the war Bonhoeffer traveled to America where he had the opportunity to stay and remain safe. But he felt he could not leave his countrymen and chose to return to Germany. He then became a part of a plot to assassinate Hitler. His life ended when he was hung at a concentration camp just shortly before the end of the war.

Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer

1. “If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

2.“I always have the feeling we are merely fearfully trying to save room for God; I would rather speak of God at the center than at the limits, in strength rather than weakness, and thus in human life and goodness rather than in death and guilt.

3. “The weakness of human nature reveal themselves more clearly in a storm than in the calm flow of peaceful times.”

4. “Desires to which we cling closely can easily prevent us from being what we ought to be and can be; and on the other hand, desires repeatedly mastered for the sake of present duty make us richer.Lack of desire is poverty.”

5. “God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.”

6. “God yet walks among us, and we are able to speak with him; we are together with him; indeed, we walk along with him in the street, meet him in the stranger while we travel, in the beggar before our door.”

7. “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

8. “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

9. “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.”

10.“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

11. “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.”

12. “Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected.”

13. “Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespected hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them.”

What I love about these quotes is the breadth of thought they invoke. I chose the first quote as my favorite because so many times I have found myself reflecting on it, and it has given me perspective when thinking about the direction of my life. His quote, “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” is quite ironic. I am sure he had no idea how much his life’s journey would impact so many people after his death. I wonder if I would have the same courage and consistency of faith under the same circumstances. But, then again, we don’t know our weakness until we are in the storm. I can only pray that my faith would withstand in any circumstance.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections, or insights on these.


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