And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the 1930s and 1940s. His life is a fascinating one that ended tragically at the age of 39 on April 9, 1945, when he was executed as a conspirator against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.
It seems almost impossible that he did all that he did in his short life. He graduated with a PhD in theology at the age of 19. While teaching at Union Seminary in New York, he taught Sunday School at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he fell in love with African American spirituals and developed an appreciation for the plight of the oppressed and downtrodden. He traveled extensively throughout the Americas and Europe. He became a champion for ecumenism. He taught theology at universities in Germany, as well as pastored churches both in Germany and in England. As a pastor, he would take young, poor students out of the city into the mountains on retreat. When the Nazi regime would no longer allow the faithful teaching of the Gospel in seminaries and universities, Bonhoeffer led an underground seminary. He was one of the first voices to challenge the Nazification of the church in Germany and was an adamant opponent to the persecution of the Jews. It was ultimately these theological convictions that led Dietrich to plot with others against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, and it was for these convictions that he was willing to die.
On April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was martyred for the actions that followed his theological convictions, but Bonhoeffer had lost his life to Christ years earlier. In 1937, he wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Have you answered Christ’s call into the shadows? Have you answered Christ’s call to take up your cross? Have you answered Christ’s call to true life, to a fuller life, to a more abundant life, and to a life that only comes through death to ourselves and our sin?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the new life that you offer through your Son, Jesus Christ. Give us the strength to accept it by recognizing our need to die to ourselves so we can live for you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Touchstone, 1995.