Letters and Papers from Prison

I am reading Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes so far. He was kept in prison and murdered for sticking to his faith and not following Hitler’s regime. This book is his compiled thoughts and letters to his friends during his time in prison. Knowledge of his sacrifice in light of his opposition make his words especially poignant and powerful. (Also, it snowed this week!)

 

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

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We will not and must not be either outraged critics or opportunists, but mud take our share of responsibility for the moulding of history in every situation and at every moment, whether we are the victors or the vanquished. The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live. 

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I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us the strength we need to help us to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are turned to good account, and that is no harder for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds. I believe that God is no timeless fate, but that he waits for and answers sincere prayers and responsible actions. 

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We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? 

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?