Monday, September 17, 2012

what I'm reading: Bonhoeffer on the sweetness of death

Bonhoeffer was executed at dawn on 9th April 1945 at Flossenbürg concentration camp, only two weeks before the camp was liberated by US soldiers. He was killed because of his role in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

A few days before he died Bonhoeffer told his friend, "This is the end — for me the beginning of life." The camp doctor who watched the execution said, "I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

How was Bonhoeffer able to die with such courage and hope? Here he writes about the sweetness (yes, the sweetness!) of death.
No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence...That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up — that is for young and old alike to think about.

Why are we so afraid when we think about death? Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer 531.

No comments: