10 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes That Continue to Convict, Haunt, Comfort, Challenge, and Inspire Me

On this anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s hanging in Flossenburg, Germany, I take time to consider a few of his words that continue to convict, haunt, comfort, challenge, and inspire me. While Bonhoeffer and I both shared a common faith tradition, I suspect that many of his ideas will resonate and connect with people across backgrounds and traditions.

“The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.” – Cost of Discipleship

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” – Life Together

“Being free means ‘being free for the other’, because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.” – Creation and Fall

“We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” – Life Together

“Political action means taking responsibility. This cannot happen without power. Power is to serve responsibility.” – Ethics

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it.” – God is in the Manger

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” – Letters and Papers from Prison

“But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings–all of which the heart can do by itself–with prayer. And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God.” – Psalms

“Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – A Testament to Freedom

“There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action.” – Letters from Prison

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation; as well as Founder and CEO of Birdhouse Learning Labs. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.

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