Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian and one of the last to die under a direct order from Adolph Hitler was known for a theology of realism that puts the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the midst of the world’s most horrific and painful events. In his toughest book, the Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer asserted that “when God calls a man – he bids him come and die.” There is no cheap grace in Bonhoeffer and there is always a stark reminder that discipleship is costly and yet, brings the individual his/her greatest peace and joy.
The call to “come and die” is not an invitation accepted by the faint of heart. Rather, “come and die” is a challenge to actually begin living life with abandonment and with a focus that brings peace, reconciliation, justice and the confidence of redemption. Most of us live in a world that struggles to give life to our actions, dreams and relationships. We will do almost anything to resuscitate our dreams, our actions and the creations of our minds and hearts. We hold on to our ideas and the material things of this world in a way that suggests that we always live in fear of losing them. Come and die is the antithesis of holding on. It is letting loose and surrendering to a life of passion, compassion, love and grace.
When confronted with a human defeat, a broken relationship or my ego seems to crumble before the talents and skills of a brighter mind or more capable human being or I seek to hold on to the comfortable world I have created for myself – the call to come and die liberates me from the need to win at the cost of another or worse – at all costs. In the Cable News world of our generation, commentators and pundits will do anything to win. They advocate for policies and vilify their opponents. I am struck recently that people of faith seem to rally around these frightened demagogues thinking they can capacitate us in our efforts to hold on to ideas and things that have come to define our lives.
Come and die says let loose of these intellectual and material entanglements and embrace the abandonment of living outside of yourself and live fully inside the one who envelops, defines and restores all things to a life of peace, justice and forgiveness. This is the way of a Seeker.
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