Love and Grace at the centre
Regular columnist James Knight explains that we should allow love and grace to have the prime influence over our lives.
This week marks 70 years since the influential German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (right) was hanged by the Nazis for his part in the attempted assassination of Hitler.
Early on in my journey of faith I learned something enduringly valuable from Bonhoeffer. Inspired by his public defence of Christ, not Hitler, as head of the church, I resolved always to be alert to the dangers of worldly influences that were not Christ-like. What first led me to Christ was the realisation that the God who created the universe humbled himself on earth, and died for us, to give us the free gift of salvation.
I recall my most powerful encounter with Scripture – the moment when, after being beaten beyond recognition, thoroughly humiliated, and suffering the intense agony of being nailed to the cross and left to die, we read that Jesus’ primary concern was to pray: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).
The people who suffered under the Nazi brutality arguably had more to forgive than most of us. But those that managed it learned something precious about what it means to be Christ-like. They learned what it is possible for each of us to learn when, in God’s strength, we make love and grace the centre of our lives: that all the wrongdoing, resentment, hate and intolerance in the world are the fluids that bleed out when love and grace are absent.
One of Bonhoeffer’s greatest legacies is an inspired lesson in what it means to resist all things that are not of God, even when they are socially and culturally pervasive. Thankfully, in the present times in the UK we do not have to live with the threat of dictatorship or ethnic cleansing. But what current threats do we live with that are all-pervasive, that might come with a cost to our relationship with Christ?
Perhaps in this present time those challenges are less likely to be the kind of threats of adversity and oppression that Bonhoeffer faced, and more likely to be the relative pleasures, freedoms, comforts and contentment we enjoy. How will we, like Bonhoeffer, resist the threats that surround us? My point of inspiration is always the moment on the cross when, under intense strain, Jesus’ first thought was to turn to the Father and ask that love and grace would prevail.
This article was first published by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and is reproduced by kind permission.
James Knight is a long term contributor to the Network Norwich & Norfolk website and a local government officer based in Norwich. He is also a writer for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
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