When a series of three reading buddies recommend a book, I often buy it. However, several years ago, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010), a New York Times bestseller by Eric Metaxas, came with concern. I don’t read horror, fiction or non-fiction.
And what could be more horrific than another graphic account of Hitler’s Third Reich seducing a nation into fascism while annihilating Europe’s Jews and their sympathizers by the millions? Weren’t The Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom enough for me to comprehend the reach of tyranny’s cruelty and ruin?
“Trust me,” a friend said, “although tragic, Bonhoeffer tells an important, redemptive story relevant to us today. My husband and I read it to each other. That might help you make it to the end. You must finish the book.”
Having read and respected Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship (1937), I bought Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer upon my friend’s word. My husband and I read to one another until we reached mid-way its 542 pages.
“I need a break to read something lighter. I’ll finish Bonhoeffer later,” Mel said.
As I turned the pages to the end, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological convictions publicly responded to Germany’s gradual spiritual, moral, and social decline. ‘Only those who believe obey’ is what we say to that part of a believer’s soul which obeys, and ‘only those who obey believe’ is what we say to that part of the soul of the obedient which believes. If the first half of the proposition stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of cheap grace, which is another word for damnation. If the second half stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of salvation through works, which is also another word for damnation.
Bonhoeffer’s belief and obedience led him to the executioner’s gallows. Corrie ten Boom’s belief and obedience followed her Lord’s deliverance from evil through the gates of Ravensbrück concentration camp back to her home in Haarlem, Holland. Afterwards, Corrie began a lifelong ministry as a “tramp for the Lord,” speaking her testimony of forgiveness throughout the earth.
Within the bounty of God’s mercy, in the early 1970’s, Corrie ten Boom stood on the platform of Bethesda Missionary Church in Detroit. And there I sat amongst 2,000 people, moved that Corrie forgave the Nazi guards who beat and starved her and her sister Betsie, and millions of other women, men, and children.
Fifty-one years later, I’ve concluded Eric Metaxas’ book titled 7 Women (2015). Corrie ten Boom is listed in the cast with Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. All women who believed and obeyed, and obeyed and believed in the salvation of Jesus Christ, stood upon these first and second halves against oppression, and forgave their enemy.
Dear Reader, when we are tested, let us remember this great cloud of witnesses. Let us stand. Believe and obey. Obey and believe.
By the way, Mel finished Bonhoeffer.
Contact Iris at email@example.com.