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A collection of quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on empathy, compassion, joy, music, mission, justice, Christianity, grace, life, gratitude, faith and sin.

100 Timeless Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes

Quick Facts

Born On: February 4, 1906

Died On: April 9, 1945

Born In: Breslau, Silesia Province, Prussia

Died At Age: 39

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, expert of theology and one of the founders of the Confessing Church who is however best known for being a fierce anti-Nazi activist. He was a student of theology and was a believer in liberal values that put him directly at odds with the philosophies of the Nazi Party. He went on to earn a doctorate in theology from the University of Berlin. He lived in the United States for some time and worked in New York City, before returning to his native Germany. The stint in the United States further broadened his liberal worldview. Along with his theological work, he was a liberal thinker as well and his views have influenced a wide range of people across Europe. His book ‘The Cost of Discipleship’, written in 1937, is considered among the most important books of the time and is still regarded as a classic. However, his most important contribution during his lifetime was his vociferous opposition to Adolf Hitler and his policies, which eventually led to his arrest. He had also spent time in one of the infamous concentration camps but he was eventually tried and executed when he was found to have been involved in a plot to kill Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings, speeches, thoughts and work always focussed on ‘practicing what you preach’. Our collection of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes has been excerpted from his writings, and speeches. Here are some thought-provoking thoughts and quotations by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on understanding, kindness, suffering, persecution and evangelism.

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don't do, and more in light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Time is the most valuable thing that we have, because it is the most irrevocable.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.....We must not.....assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others...not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Being free means "being free for the other," because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No sacrifice which a lover would make for his beloved is too great for us to make for our enemy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If my sinfulness appears to me in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ. At the break of light it remembers the morning on which death and sin lay prostrate in defeat and new life and salvation were given to mankind

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Grace at a low cost, is in the last resort simply a new law, which brings neither help nor freedom.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Den grten Fehler, den man im Leben machen kann, ist, immer Angst zu haben, einen Fehler zu machen.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One act of obedience is worth a hundred sermons.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not everyone can wait: neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Political action means taking on responsibility. This cannot happen without power. Power is to serve responsibility.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Any honours that come our way are only stolen from him to whom alone they really belong, the Lord who sent us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The fact that we do not speak it but sing it only expresses the fact that our spoken words are inadequate to express what we want to say, that the burden of our song goes far beyond all human words.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don't believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian's life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sanctification means that the Christians have been judged already, and that they are being preserved until the coming of Christ and are ever advancing towards it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Every wedding must be an occasion of joy that human beings can do such great things, that they have been given such immense freedom and power to take the helm in their life’s journey…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Neighbourliness is not a quality in other people, it is simply their claim on ourselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The way to misuse our possessions is to use them as an insurance against the morrow. Anxiety is always directed to the morrow, whereas goods are in the strictest sense meant to be used only for to-day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The wars of Israel were the only 'holy wars' in history... there can be no more wars of faith. The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Love, in the sense of spontaneous, unreflective action, spells the death of the old man.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The world exercises dominion by force and Christ and Christians conquer by service.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise godfearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer it; he must let the evil person fall into Jesus' hands.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A love that left people alone in their guilt would not have real people as its object. So, in vicarious responsibility for people, and in His love for real human beings, Jesus becomes the one burdened by guilt.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there he still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nothing can be known either of God or man until God has become man in Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The task of pastoral ministry, above all else, is to arrange contingencies for an encounter with the divine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to each of us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The truth of the matter is that the whole world has already been turned upside down by the work of Jesus Christ

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[Christ] is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There can be no real attachment to the given creation, no genuine responsibility in the world, unless we recognize the breach which already separates us from it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May God in his mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may he lead us to himself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Perhaps you still think you ought to think out beforehand and know what you ought to do. To that there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by actually doing it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva, suffering because we have to suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

My past life is abundantly full of God’s mercy, and, above all sin, stands the forgiving love of the Crucified.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is a wrong way of staying in the world and a wrong way of fleeing from it. In both cases we are fashioning ourselves according to the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In short, it is much easier to see a thing through from the point of view of abstract principle than from that of concrete responsibility.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is worse for a liar to tell the truth than for a lover of truth to lie.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The limitation of the ethical phenomenon to its place and time does not imply its rejection but, on the contrary, its validation. One does not use canons to shoot sparrows.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The brother is a burden to the Christian, precisely because he is a Christian. For the pagan the other person never becomes a burden at all. He simply sidesteps every burden that others may impose upon him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As Christians, we needn’t be at all ashamed of some impatience, longing, opposition to what is unnatural, and our full share of desire for freedom, earthly happiness, and opportunity for effective work.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The task is not to turn the world upside down but in a given place to do what, from the perspecive of reality, is necessary objectively and to really carry it out.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Advent creates people, new people.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A false faith is capable of terrible and monstrous things.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This is the end. For me the beginning of life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

How impossible, how utterly absurd it would be for the disciples--these disciples, such men as these!--to try and become the light of the world! No, they are already the light, and the call has made them so.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[...]he who can speak out of the abundance of God's Word, the wealth of directions, admonitions, and consolations of the Scriptures, will be able through God's Word to drive out demons and help his brother.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nevertheless, it is the free grace of the resurrected One that now also goes after the individual, overcomes the doubter, and creates in him the Easter faith.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer