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A Man’s Moral Worth

Henning von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht and a chief conspirator in the Valkyrie plot (he is played by Kenneth Branagh in the modern movie “Valkyrie” which starred Tom Cruise). He spoke these words to a fellow conspirator Fabian von Schlabrendorff who is the source for these words:

“The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing.  Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the whole world.  When, in a few hours time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify in good conscience what I did in the struggle against Hitler.  God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if just ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope that for our sake God will not destroy Germany.  None of us can bewail his own death, those who consented to join our circle put on the robe of Nessus.  A human being’s moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.” *

Despite the atrocities of the Nazi’s, it is not right to conclude that honor and integrity were dead in Germany.  There were many heroes who failed in their attempts to right a very badly listing ship.  Overwhelmed by the ferocity and speed of Hitler’s evil, these men were caught in an avalanche of proportions they could never even imagine.  By the time they figured out the depth of the horror and the corresponding and seemingly immoral option left to them (assassination), Hitler was well on his way.

Once we know what we are willing to sacrifice our life for we will have a better idea of how we should live our lives.

*quote taken from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

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Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich. Eric Metaxas.

Loved this book.  Bonhoeffer is a champion of the faith.  He grapples with believing in a very difficult context at a very young age.  He does the unthinkable and stands up to every conceivable authority structure in his life.  Challenging the church as he knew it when it went awry and conspiring to kill a truly evil man in Adolph Hitler as leader of the Third Reich.  Bonhoeffer is truly a good read.  I was inspired by his courage and faith.

One of my favorite sections of the book:

“This is how Bonhoeffer saw what he was doing.  He had theologically redefined the Christian life as something active, not reactive.  It had nothing to do with aavoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets.  It had everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action.  It did not merely require a mind, but a body too.  it was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the one who had made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny.  it was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a a life lived in a knd of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom – that was what it was to obey God.”  p. 446

“Bonhoeffer talked about how the German penchant for self-sacrifice and submission to authority had been used for evil ends by the Nazi’s; only a deep understanding of and commitment to the God of the Bible could stand up to such wickedness.  “It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.”  Here was the rub; one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin.  One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God’s purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes.  One’s obedience to God must be forward-oriented and zealous and free, and to be a mere moralist or pietist would make such a life impossible. ” p. 446-447

My favorite Bonhoeffer quotes from the book:

“It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying.  Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.”

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

“Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed along with several others for their part in the conspiracy to kill Hitler at Flossenburg Concentration Camp at dawn on April 9, 1945.  A plaque at the site reads: “In resistance against dictatorship and terror, they gave their lives for freedom, justice, and humanity.”  Bonhoeffer was 39 years old. After witnessing Bonhoeffer’s death, the Flossenburg doctor reported:  “In the almost fifty years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

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