While working on Sunday’s sermon I ran across the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. What is weak shall become strong through God, and what dies shall live.
I was challenged by it, liked it, and thought I would incorporate it into Sunday’s message. I do however hate attributing things to secondary sources so I thought I would go find the original source and look at the context of the quote. I found it in a collection of Bonhoeffer’s writings from 1928-31. I think the context makes the quote even better. Unfortunately it is rather long to share on a Sunday evening so I am, therefore, posting it here on the blog.
Ethics and religion and church all go in this direction: from the human to God. Christ, however, speaks only and exclusively of the line from God to human beings, not of some human path to God, but only of God’s own path to humans. Hence it is also fundamentally wrong to seek a new morality in Christianity. In actual practice, Christ offered hardly any ethical prescriptions not already attested among his contemporary Jewish rabbis or even in pagan literature. The essence of Christianity is found in its message about the sovereign God to whom alone, above the entire world, all honor is due; it is a message about the eternally other, the God removed from the world who from the primal ground of his being has loving compassion for those who render honor to him alone, the God who traverses the path to human beings in order to find there vessels of that honor precisely where human beings are nothing, where they fall silent, where they give space to God alone.
Here the light of eternity falls upon that which is eternally disregarded, the eternally insignificant, the weak, ignoble, unknown, the least of these, the oppressed and despised: here that light radiates out over the houses of the prostitutes and tax collectors . . . here that light pours out from eternity upon the working, toiling, sinning masses. The message of grace travels over the dull sultriness of the big cities but remains standing before the houses of those who spiritually speaking are satisfied, knowing, and possessing. It pronounces upon the death of people and nations its eternal: I have loved you from eternity; stay with me, and you will live. Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued. What is weak shall become strong through God, and what dies shall live.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Essence of Christianity.” In Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008. pp. 354-55.