“Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Got a minute? Here’s some context:
“In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, “God wills it”; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, “God does not will it.” Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antithesis between “God wills it” and “God does not will it” comes to a head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must therefore serve God. From now on, the “God wills it” encompasses even the “God does not will it.” God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death.”
Bonhoeffer wrote this in a letter to young pastors in August 1941. He faced his own death on April 9, 1945.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in a German concentration camp for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The camp was liberated by U.S. soldiers two weeks later. The camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution later wrote, “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
On the morning before his trial, Bonhoeffer told a fellow prisoner, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life.”
Quotes are from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, pages 384, 528, and 532. (Emphases are mine.) For more information on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the climate within the German Christian community during WWII, I highly recommend Metaxas’ thorough book.