I discovered later, and I am still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (the so called priestly type!), a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes, failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world - watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That I think is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian (cf. Jer.45). How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray, when we share in God's sufferings through a life of this kind?
Letters and Papers from Prison
Bonhoeffer wrote this in a personal letter to his best friend, Eberhard Bethge from Tegel Prison on 21 July 1944. I think I have chosen it to reflect this station because for me it highlights the mission of Jesus. Jesus never set out to make something of himself, most of the titles used to address him in the synoptic Gospels are given by other people, not something that he said of himself. Christmas reminds me that God came and lived completely in this worlds' duties and responsibilities, successes and failures. There are, after all, 30 years of Jesus' life which we know nothing about - I wonder if he was any good as a carpenter, could he make a living, was he good with figures? It was in those 30 hidden years that Jesus threw himself completely into the arms of God, where he discovered his relationship to the Father, and submitted to his duties as the son of Mary and Joseph. These final moments of Jesus, on the road to Golgotha, explore the perplexities of complete trust in God. Failure becomes success, success becomes failure - and all the way along Jesus remains God with us.
On 9th April 1945 Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg for his part in the plot to kill Hitler. He was deeply conflicted, throughout the war, about the morality of his actions, and he was someone who was used to acknowledging failure and uncertainty.