Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Revenge and Civil Disobedience

"If we took the precept of non-resistance as an ethical blueprint for general application, we should indeed be indulging in idealistic dreams; we should be dreaming of a utopia with laws which the world would never obey.  To make non-resistance a principle for secular life is to deny God, by undermining his gracious ordinance foe the preservation of the world.  But Jesus is no draughtsman of political blueprints; he is the one who vanquished evil through suffering.  It looked as though evil triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus.  And the cross is the only justification for the precept of nonviolence, for it alone can kindle a faith in the victory over evil which will enable men to obey that precept.  And only such obedience is blessed with the promise that we shall be partakers of Christ's victory as well as of his sufferings."

Buried on page 144 of his book, I don't know how many people have actually gotten to this passage, but it seems pretty profound and revolutionary to me.  First, where does this leave Gandhi's use of nonviolent resistance, since he rejected Christianity? Second, is DB a hypocrite here, because he plotted with others to have Hitler assassinated?

More, it is part of a larger reflection on the cross.  The cross, the center of the gospel, is much more than a 3- to 6-hour payment plan by Jesus for us to go to heaven.  This is how it is portrayed.  The cross is foolishness.  The cross is a shame.  The cross is symbolic that our lives involve suffering.  It is the defining part of our doctrine (and I know there are arguments about penal substitution, etc. in the theological world). 

Suffering was so woven in to the fabric of first century Christianity; they understood it.  I don't.  Right now I am going through a bout of sciatica and trying to treat it with tylenol and a heating pad.  This is not suffering.  Suffering would be loss.

DB goes on:  "The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and it is therefore the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. . . . How can we convince the world through our preaching of the passion when we shrink from the passion in our own lives?"

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