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Biographers Needed! Please Apply
by Rubel Shelly
Most honorable Theophilus: Many people have written accounts about the events that took place F1 among us. They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises. Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you, to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
You likely know the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Christian theologian whose writings became influential throughout the Protestant world in the mid-twentieth century. Among his many books, Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship are my personal favorites. Both are widely thought of as classics of modern Christian literature.
It was Bonhoeffers fate to be a Christian in Germany during the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. The ethical principles he embraced and taught as a follower of Jesus Christ led him to be an outspoken critic of both. He affirmed that obedience to Christs command to love ones neighbors made it impossible for the same person to be anti-Semitic and a propagator of hatred.
Bonhoeffer became a prominent leader in what came to be called the Confessing Church, a Protestant movement in Germany that was born the same year that Hitler came to power, 1933. The Confessing Church systematically opposed the German Christian Church a Nazi-backed church that collaborated with Hitlers evil theories, statements, and actions.
Bonhoeffer went so far in his opposition to Nazism that he was involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. He was imprisoned. Then, shortly before the end of World War II, he was hanged by the Nazis.
Eberhard Bethge died on March 18, 2000, in a suburb of Bonn. Even his obituary in the New York Times featured more data about Bonhoeffer than him. Though a theologian himself who taught with his more famous friend at an underground anti-Nazi seminary and suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis, his most significant work was to be a biographer. His great achievement was not to become widely known himself but to make someone else famous. His quiet-by-comparison achievements have been very significant.
As I read his obituary, the thought occurred to me that Jesus needs more biographers. He needs people who are willing to tell his story without calling undue attention to themselves. Evangelism is telling the story of Jesus so compellingly that it draws others to him and attracts them to follow him.
Without Plato, we would know little about Socrates. Apart from Bethge, the life of Bonhoeffer would not be so well-known. Without you, someone may never know about Jesus.
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