This last week I was reminded of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his thoughts on living an active faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who lived during the tumultuous period of Nazi rule in Germany. Bonhoeffer often criticized the regime. He was eventually imprisoned and executed for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Throughout his life, Bonhoeffer emphasized the importance of active faith, not simply a matter of belief or adherence to religious doctrine, but a commitment to live out one’s faith in the world.
For Bonhoeffer, faith was not a private matter but a public one. He believed that the Christian life required engagement with the world and the issues that confronted it. This meant that faith was not just a matter of individual salvation but also of social justice and the common good. As he wrote in his book “The Cost of Discipleship,” “Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of faith, it means, first, a movement towards him, secondly, a life in him.”
Active Faith – Active Participants
Bonhoeffer saw the church as an active participant in the world, not a passive bystander. He believed that the church was responsible for speaking out against injustice and working to improve society. This meant not only caring for the spiritual needs of its members but also working to address the material and social needs of the wider community. As he wrote in his book “Life Together,” “The church is the church only when it exists for others.”
Bonhoeffer’s understanding of active faith was shaped by his experience of living in a world that was marked by violence, oppression, and injustice. He saw firsthand the dangers of a purely theoretical faith divorced from life’s realities. He believed that faith must be grounded in the lived experience of the world and must confront the challenges of the present and work towards a better future.
Living Out Our Faith
Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed faith was not just a matter of belief or adherence to religious doctrine but a commitment to living out one’s faith in the world. This means engaging with both the social and material needs of our community, speaking up when we see injustice, and working towards a better future for all. Bonhoeffer’s example challenges us to consider what it means to live out our faith and ask ourselves how we can work towards a more just and compassionate society.