The dictionary says a hero is one who we admire for their achievements and qualities. These are people who inspire us to greatness and chart a course for us to follow. Again, I’m not unveiling the heroes on my list in any discernable order. Yesterday I held up a hero in the today’s culture war. But heroes in a variety of arena’s have caught my attention – war heroes, missionary heroes, moral heroes, and of course, Biblical heroes. Among other things, I’m drawn to courage, culture warriors, single-mindedness, long-haul resolve and faith. There are heroes we have heard of and heroes we haven’t. Being widely known is irrelevant to heroism. Many of God’s giants go unnamed.
Many have heard of my featured hero for today – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian and martyr. Bonhoeffer was among the few clergy who stood against, and spoke against, Hitler in Nazi Germany. For this he was executed in a death camp in 1945. Fortunate for me, in seminary, I had numerous courses with Dr. H. Burton Nelson (now deceased) who was one of the world’s leading Bonhoeffer scholars. Me and my buddy Jon painted Burton’s house in Chicago and his wife was from South Dakota so he took a real interest in me planting a church here and we stayed in touch until his death. Burton knew Bonhoeffers family and wrote and taught extensively on him. I drank it all up. Burton told me he didn’t care who it was but that I should pick a “theological companion” – someone living or dead and read all they said and thought about God. I picked Bonhoeffer.
Why is he a hero? Anyone who is deeply committed to the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle is a model for me. Bonheoffer’s middle section of his famous Cost of Discipleship is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. But he lived it and wrestled with its application. Though drawn to non-violence, he ultimately participated in a secret assassination attempt on Hitler right near the end of his life. The tension of the difficulty living the Sermon on the Mount in today world became his testimony. He engaged political and death spirits operating in his age while the rest of the “church” and “clergy” became bedfellows with it or even worse, disengaged. Even the picture above shows the clergy of that time buttering up to evil Adolf.
Before I sign off I’d be amiss to not mention Bonhoeffer’s critique of “cheap grace.” CATG’rs frequently hear me motor on about the gooey grace of evangelicalism today – “God loves me so I don’t have to live any different...” It’s a false grace and a key deception of the End Times. Bonhoeffer called it what it was.