100 Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, grappled with the profound ethical and spiritual questions of his time. His writings, including "The Cost of Discipleship," challenged conventional notions of faith and compelled believers to live out their convictions even in the face of persecution.

Bonhoeffer's active resistance against the Nazi regime and his participation in plots to assassinate Hitler exemplified his commitment to justice and the defense of human dignity. His theology emphasized the intersection of faith and action, stressing the responsibility to actively engage with the world's suffering and injustices. Bonhoeffer's life and teachings continue to resonate as a testament to the moral imperative to stand up against oppression and to pursue a higher calling of compassion and justice.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes


Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ. (Meaning)

Only the suffering God can help. (Meaning)

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies (Meaning)

The cross is suffering with Christ. (Meaning)

To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. (Meaning)

It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. (Quote Meaning)

Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. (Meaning)

God lets himself be pushed out of the world and on to the cross. (Quote Meaning)

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present. (Meaning)

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give. (Quote Meaning)

Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.

The person who’s in love with their vision of community will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community everywhere they go.

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Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. (Meaning)

Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. (Quote Meaning)

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims. (Meaning)

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. (Meaning)

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, who will thwart our plans and frustrate our ways time and again, even daily, by sending people across our path with their demands and requests. We can, then, pass them by, preoccupied with our important daily tasks, just as the priest-perhaps reading the Bible-passed by the man who had fallen among robbers. When we do that, we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised in our lives to show us that God’s way, and not our own, is what counts.

Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries. We desire to secure our lives with earthly goods; we want our worrying to make us worry-free, but the truth is the opposite. The chains which bind us to earthly goods, the clutches which hold the goods tight, are themselves worries.

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door.

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In me there is darkness, But with You there is light; I am lonely, but You do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help; I am restless, but with You there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience; I do not understand Your ways, But You know the way for me.” “Lord Jesus Christ, You were poor And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am. You know all man’s troubles; You abide with me When all men fail me; You remember and seek me; It is Your will that I should know You And turn to You. Lord, I hear Your call and follow; Help me.

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

But they all stood beneath the cross, enemies and believers, doubters and cowards, revilers and devoted followers. His prayer, in that hour, and his forgiveness, was meant for them all, and for all their sins. The mercy and love of God are at work even in the midst of his enemies. It is the same Jesus Christ, who of his grace calls us to follow him, and whose grace saves the murderer who mocks him on the cross in his last hour.

God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. (Quote Meaning)

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. (Meaning)

Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.

Love asks nothing in return, but seeks those who need it. And who needs our love more than those who are consumed with hatred and are utterly devoid of love.

Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons. (Meaning)

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. (Quote Meaning)

May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself.

Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?

Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life (Meaning)

The church is not a religious community of worshippers of Christ but is Christ himself who has taken form among people.

We have learnt, rather too late, that action comes, not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.....We must not.....assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.

Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.

It is from God that parents receive their children, and it is to God that they should lead them.

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. (Meaning)

The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.

We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to 'offer' something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening.

The biggest mistake you can make in your life is to be always afraid of making a mistake.

So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self- satisfied; in fact, he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel.

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.

Faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.

The gift of Christ is not the Christian religion, but the grace and love of God which culminate in the cross.

Comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable. (Meaning)

Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. (Quote Meaning)

The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.

It is worse for a liar to tell the truth than for a lover of truth to lie.... There is a truth which is of Satan. Its essence is that under the semblance of truth it denies everything that is real. It lives upon hatred of the real world which is created and loved by God.

Cheap grace is the idea that "grace" did it all for me so I do not need to change my lifestyle. The believer who accepts the idea of "cheap grace" thinks he can continue to live like the rest of the world. Instead of following Christ in a radical way, the Christian lost in cheap grace thinks he can simply enjoy the consolations of his grace.

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

"The deceit, the lie of the Devil consists of this, that he wishes to make man believe that he can live without God's Word."

The deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.

When you read the Bible, you must think that here and now, God is speaking with me

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.

It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich! (Meaning)

The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.

Wherever there are sinners, the weak, the sorrowful, the poor in the world, that is where God goes.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.

We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.

In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don't insist on your rights, don't blame each other, don't judge or condemn each other, don't find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.

The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.

Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.

Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.

There are only two places where the powerful and great in this world lose their courage, tremble in the depths of their souls, and become truly afraid. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ....No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle of Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology finds its beginnings in the miracle of miracles, that God became human.

Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian's duty to bear.

The pursuit of purity is not about the suppression of lust, but about the reorientation of one's life to a larger goal.

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety.

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, l honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.

Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon the time which we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering. Time lost is time not filled, time left empty.

The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.

I believe that nothing that happens to me is meaningless and that it is good for us all that it should be so, even if it runs counter to our own wishes. As I see it, I'm here for some purpose, and I only hope I may fulfill it.

There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler. (Quote Meaning)

I need the Christ that is in you, and you need the Christ that is in me.

God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.

A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol. (Meaning)

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others. (Meaning)

And if we ask how are we to know where our hearts are, the answer is just as simple - everything which hinders us from loving God above all things and acts as a barrier between ourselves and our obedience to Jesus is our treasure, and the place where our heart is.

A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. (Quote Meaning)

Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won where the way leads to the cross.

If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

Must the Christian go around looking for a cross to bear, seeking to suffer? No, insisted Bonhoeffer. Opportunities for bearing crosses will occur along life's way and all that is required is the willingness to act when the time comes. The needs of the neighbor, especially those of the weak and downtrodden, the victimized and the persecuted, the ill and the lonely, will become abundantly evident.

One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to inquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us.

The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.

Only those who put tomorrow completely into God's hand and receive fully today what they need for their lives are really secure.

Once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life he will henceforth aspire only to serve.

It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.

There remains an experience of incomparable value . . . to see the great events of world history from below; from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled ---- in short, from the perspective of those who suffer . . . to look with new eyes on matters great and small.

It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.

If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering .

Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word.

time is the most valuable thing that we have, because it is the most irrevocable.

Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.

When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people.

Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. (Meaning)

Only he who gives thanks for the little things receives the big things.

God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.

"It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.

So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work."

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

The time is short. Eternity is long. It is the time of decision.

Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together.

A father acts on behalf of his children by working, providing, intervening, struggling, and suffering for them. In so doing, he really stands in their place. He is not an isolated individual, but incorporates the selves of several people in his own self.

Fulfilled life is possible in spite of unfulfilled wishes.

A righteous person is one who lives for the next generation. (Meaning)

The Lord confers great honor on his servants when he brings them suffering.

We are separated from one another by an unbridgeable gulf of otherness and strangeness which resists all our attempts to overcome it by means of natural association or emotional or spiritual union. There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology however frank and open our behaviour we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through Him.

God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises. (Quote Meaning)

Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.

Possessions are not God's blessing and goodness, but the opportunities of service which he entrusts to us.

The devil doesn't fill us with hatred for God, but with forgetfulness of God.

We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then let’s see something to prove it.

On Sunday 8 April 1945, he had just finished conducting a service of worship at Schoenberg, when two soldiers came took him away. As he left, he said to another prisoner, This is the end - but for me, the beginning - of life. He was hanged the next day, less than a week before the Allies reached the camp.

The first call which every Christian experiences is the call to abandon the attachments of this world.

He who fears the face of God does not fear the face of man. He who fears the face of man does not fear the face of God.

Political action means taking on responsibility. This cannot happen without power. Power is to serve responsibility.

One's task is not to turn the world upside down, but to do what is necessary at the given place and with a due consideration of reality.

Just as our love for God begins with listening to God's Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them.

Politics are not the task of a Christian. (Meaning)

A king who dies on the cross must be the king of a rather strange kingdom.

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.

It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the word of God.

If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted of destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgment, and...give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves.

Ultimate seriousness in not without a dose of humor.

Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy's hatred, the greater his need of love.

If you reject God's commanding word, you will not receive God's gracious word.

Pain is a holy angel who shows us treasures that would otherwise remain forever hidden; through him men and women have become greater than through all the joys of the world. It must be so and I tell myself this in my present situation over and over again. The pain of suffering and of longing, which can often be felt even physically, must be there, and we cannot and need not talk it away. But it needs to be overcome every time, and thus there is an even holier angel than the one of pain; that is, the one of joy in God.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

Only those who obey can believe, and only those who believe can obey.

Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue.

Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.

God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away.

A person who loves community tends to destroy it. But a person who loves people creates community wherever he goes.

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straghtforward men.

Telling the truth ... is not solely a matter of moral character; it is also a matter of correct appreciation of real situations and of serious reflection upon them.

Judgement is the forbidden objectivization of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me.

The first service that one owes to others consists in listening to them. (Meaning)

The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance.

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes

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