From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a January 1999 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Reading Richard’s Streams of Living Water has reminded me of the importance of all the traditions for our personal and corporate spiritual lives. Contemplative: The Prayer-Filled Life. Holiness: The Virtuous Life. Charismatic: The Spirit-Empowered Life. Social Justice: The Compassionate Life. Evangelical: The Word-Centered Life. Incarnational: The Sacramental Life. In the first chapter of Streams, Imitatio: The Divine Paradigm,” Richard shows us that Jesus intentionally sought his Father’s nurture in all these areas of the spiritual life. We are challenged to do the same.

A Twentieth-Century Model

While Jesus is our divine paradigm,” other lives can be important examples as we mature into Christlikeness. Though certainly less than perfect, these saints — past and present — can motivate and teach us in our apprenticeship to Jesus Christ.

Clearly, in our century, one of the champions of the Way is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the focus of this Perspective. Bonhoeffer’s life was filled with practices designed to develop within and without the fruits of the traditions of Christian life and faith we emphasize at Renovaré. One of the most striking things about Bonhoeffer is how he was challenged in all six streams, leading to a balance of strength and sensitivity, earthiness and eternity reminiscent of Jesus.

For those less familiar with Bonhoeffer’s story, his career as a theologian developed under the gloomy and deceptive cloud of Adolf Hitler and Germany’s Third Reich. Born in Breslau to German parents in 1906, Bonhoeffer spent less than four years outside his native country during his short life. Though tempted, along with all Germans, to complacency and capitulation during the Nazi regime, by 1933 Bonhoeffer clearly saw that the direction the German State Church (of which he was an ordained pastor) was heading had little to do with Christ crucified.

As a part of the Confessing Church — a group of German Lutheran pastors that withheld their support of Hitler — Bonhoeffer proclaimed publicly his distrust of the Nazis and concern over deteriorating conditions for Jewish people in Germany. Stripped of his pastoral authority by the state, in 1939 Bonhoeffer joined with dissenting members of the German military intelligence who were attempting to subvert the Führer and his Nazi government. Their activities included smuggling Jewish persons to Allied and neutral countries and plotting to assassinate Hitler. After discovery of their anti-Nazi activities in 1943, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually hung as a traitor, just weeks before the Allied victory.

Faithful and True

Though it is difficult to fully appreciate the context of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life, his prophetic example stands as a reminder that sometimes we must make difficult choices. God’s kingdom is an all-inclusive community of loving persons, but we live during a period when God’s reign is not realized in all people. And so, given the difficulties of our everyday life circumstances, we can begin to comprehend the incredible strength Bonhoeffer must have been given to remain true to God’s vision and hope in the midst of such acquiescence by his people and church.

It was a gift of God given to Bonhoeffer, one that we also receive as we are nurtured and mature in the life of apprenticeship to Jesus, our everliving Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend.


Lyle SmithGraybeal

Text First Published January 1999