Opposing Evil – not Voting for It

BonhoefferIn 1933 and the rise of the German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, the German Evangelical Church was consumed by the Nazi government. Church leaders surrendered their authority over spiritual affairs and accepted the demands of Nazi leaders. No longer was the Church of Jesus Christ an independent voice for morality and good, but was coerced into silence and control by the federal government. Most German Christians either voted for Hitler as the lesser of two evils or sat idly by and allowed the government to act without opposition. While the handicapped and Jews were being gassed, German pulpits were silent except in their praise of Hitler. German Christians buried their heads in the sand.

A young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to back down in his opposition to Hitler and the government. By radio, Bonhoeffer warned the German people that they were making Hitler into a god and that the church had become a cult of idolatry used by Nazi politicians. Just then the radio transmission was cut. Two months later Bonhoeffer declared that the church had a responsibility not only to help those crushed by the government, “but to fall into the spokes of the wheel itself.

A small cadre of pastors began what was called the Confessing Church, a group opposed to Hitler, his socialism, and stood in support of the Jews. These pastors insisted that Christ Jesus and the Bible alone could dictate the conscience of a Christian and the role of the church in society. Secular government nor any political leader ruled over Christ’s Church.

Refusing to compromise the Gospel, Bonhoeffer and a few others openly resisted the government. Soon churches, schools, and charities that refused to cooperate with the government were closed by force. Pastors were banned by court order from preaching in public. Bonhoeffer secretly traveled Germany, teaching the Bible, preaching against Hitler and socialism, and advocated on behalf of the Jewish people. He also participated in several failed attempts to assassinate Hitler.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was eventually captured, imprisoned, tried and convicted of crimes against the state. On Sunday, April 8, 1945, from inside a concentration camp, he preached his last sermon, from Isaiah 53:5, by His stripes we are healed. Upon finishing, he was taken and hanged, only days before Allied Forces liberated the concentration camp.

The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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