Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. 1945)

Mark Fackler

READ : 1 Samuel 17:31-37

“The Lord, who saved me . . . will save me.” (v. 37)

Bonhoeffer was born into a prominent Berlin family. His father was a doctor. Dietrich himself was a gifted student and musician. At age 14, however, quite to his scientific family’s surprise, Dietrich announced that he would study theology. By 21, he had earned a doctor of theology degree from the University of Berlin.

Dietrich was as much a pastor as a teacher. In one of Berlin’s slums he taught Sunday school. He came to New York where many encouraged him to stay, but Bonhoeffer knew his homeland was under threat from Nazi terror.

Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer was forbidden to teach or preach. He had to report regularly to police officials.

But an odd assignment changed his life. The Nazis wanted to use his diplomatic contacts in America for their advantage. Bonhoeffer became a member of the Nazi’s secret service, or so they thought. Actually, he was working to end the war.

In April, 1943, the Gestapo caught Bonhoeffer’s underground associates, imprisoned them, and eventually executed the group. Bonhoeffer was hung on April 9, 1945, as Allied troops approached his camp.

Bonhoeffer’s writing continues to challenge people today. His thoughts on “cheap grace” and “the cost of discipleship” still call Christians to make Christ their center, to bear his cross in obedient service.


In life and in death, Lord, be my shepherd and savior.