A Martyr’s Daily Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who was involved in the German resistance movement against Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. In April 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested. Thirteen months later, still in prison, he wrote a letter to his friends, saying:
I believe that nothing that happens to me is meaningless. . . . As I see it, I’m here for some purpose, and I only hope I may fulfill it. In the light of the great purpose all our privations and disappointments are trivial (Letters and Papers from Prison, May 9, 1944).

Eleven months later, Bonhoeffer was hanged in Flossenburg Concentration Camp. Because of his convictions, he became one of the great Christian martyrs of the 20th century. His words from prison will never be forgotten: “I’m here for some purpose, and I only hope I may fulfill it.”

Earlier in his career, Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Cost of Discipleship). There are different kinds of “dying,” Bonhoeffer said, but the essence of true Christian discipleship is always a dying—dying to our old human natures, to our own will, to our own purposes. In following Christ, we die to ourselves that we may become alive to God’s new purpose for us.

Bonhoeffer’s life reminds me of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, whose story is told in the New Testament Book of Acts. Stephen is described as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who “did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:5, 8). He encountered opposition from fellow Jews because of his belief that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Stephen’s opponents brought him before the authorities and presented false witnesses against him.

In his response, Stephen confronted his opponents as those who opposed God and killed the Messiah (Acts 7:2-53). Enraged, his adversaries dragged him out of the city and stoned him. His dying words echo the words of Jesus on the cross, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54-60).

“When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die,” Bonhoeffer said. Few people are called to be physical martyrs for their faith. But there are different kinds of dying. God may call us to “die” by giving up a goal on our career path in order to spend more time with family. Dying may mean losing a job because we did the right thing and became a whistleblower over unethical practices in the workplace. Dying could mean letting go of some of our affluent material lifestyle in order to give our time and resources to care for poor people. Dying could mean letting go of our anger or pride and forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply.

Stephen and Bonhoeffer died because they were devoted to their faith. Clear in their convictions, they spoke the truth and died trusting in the goodness of God. They are examples of true dedication—wholehearted devotion to their Lord and to their faith.

“I’m here for some purpose, and I only hope that I may fulfill it,” Bonhoeffer said. Think about your life: What’s your purpose? Why are you here?

Think about your work, family, friendships, and everyday choices. What are you willing to “die” for? To what does God call you to dedicate your life?