Bonhoeffer on the Love of God

On the 5th of September 1930, Dietrich Bonhoeffer left his native Germany for his first visit to the USA. In his first sermon before his American audience, Bonhoeffer chose to speak on 1 John 4:16, the love of God. Part of that address included these words:

Under the cross of Christ we know that we all belong to one another, that we all are brethren and sisters in the same need and in the same hope, that we are bound together by the same destiny, human beings with all our suffering and all our joys, with sorrows and with desires, with disappointments and fulfilments – and most important, human beings with our sin and guilt, with our faith and hope. Before the cross of Christ and his inconceivable suffering all our external differences disappear, we are no longer rich or poor, wise or simple, good or bad; we are no longer Americans or Germans, we are one large congregation of brethren; we recognise that nobody is good before God, as Paul says: ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace.’ Let us look at the love of Christ, who without guilt bore the cross – why? Because he had loved his people more than himself. And then let us consider our own feebleness and our own want of courage, our anxiety when sorrow and grief threaten, our selfish desire to live a comfortable and careless life. In profound and serious abashment we Christian people must confess that we are not worthy of such great love of God.’ – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes 1928-1936 from the Collected Works, Volume 1 (ed. E. H. Robertson; trans. J. Bowden; London: Harper & Row, 1970), 73.

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