“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security…. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I’ve had the lush pleasure of spending my first summer break hours reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Though I knew vaguely of Bonhoeffer’s life and struggles against the Third Reich, and have read his celebrated Cost of Discipleship, I understood precious little of his blood drawn for the sake of living the convictions that he so passionately penned. What began more as a curiosity to see what all the fuss over this book is about, has quickly taken a sharp right onto a path of both mental and spiritual challenges.
Metaxas is masterful in writing Bonhoeffer back alive to readers. True, it may be impossible to write of the man and end up with a simply engaging read. Everything about him, his attitudes, actions and writings demands an inward study; an unescapable analyzing of personal beliefs, assumptions and convictions. Early in his career, Bonhoeffer struggles to answer the question, “What is church?” Metaxas wisely frames this single question and subsequent answer as the driving force behind all Bonhoeffer did – whether in teaching theology students or embedding himself in the plot to end Hitler’s life.
I confess having always been confused as to how the German people allowed such a lunatic as Hitler into power. And, maybe not even this question as much, but more importantly, once they saw his true flashing dark side, why did they continue to give him girth? Reading Bonhoeffer has clarified much of my ignorant curiosities. And more importantly, caused me some measure of fright as I ponder Bonhoeffer’s often prophetic words sprinkled amongst Metaxas’ text.
One of my favorite Bonhoeffer passages, I have written at the top of this post. “There is no way to peace along the way of safety,” said the 28-year old Bonhoeffer at a theological conference in 1934. He was challenging his fellow theologians to truly behave as the church of God – be the face of the Gospel. A demand that would undoubtedly lead them to discomfort, personal sacrifice and lack of security. But, only through such bold decisive living, would lives be saved and true peace achieved.
I can place this quote squarely in the middle of any number of our family’s decisions and have it shine true. Adoption – especially the aftermath – lacked every measure of comforting security I never imagined missing. Yet, amidst the turmoil was a deeper peace, knowing my own ways weren’t at work, but His alone.
In 2013, we will begin life as civilians and decide where to move our family – not the Army. The options are limitless, yet in our constant discussions we begin threading in personal requirements for a place – little guarantees of comfort, prosperity, opportunities. Bonhoeffer’s words now ring in my ears: “To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.”
With every decision, I know whether I lean one direction out of self-preservation versus Christ-in-me conviction. I easily justify decisions based on security – I’ve had years of practice. But more and more the heart pulls me towards truth. And, as Bonhoeffer knew so intimately, truth always begets deeper peace, while security’s only offering is a hollow salute given in fear.
What decisions do you face today? From what source are you deciding? Personal security and outward guarantees? Or deep conviction from faith in God’s promises Truths laid bare in His Word?