A German Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was imprisoned and martyred by the Nazis mere days and weeks before the Nazis were defeated by the allies. Writing from prison to his friend Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer asks the question of what Christianity, or who Jesus Christ actually is for us today. He got an answer in his prison cell: Jesus is “the human being for others.”
"Who is Christ for us today?" Jeus' nicknames were sinner’s friend, or “he saved others but not him.” Bonhoeffer pointed first to the poverty of the manger where Jesus was born (an animal’s food dish!) and then to the humiliation of the cross where he died: “This man is God for me. Jesus lived and lives now entirely for others. The marks of an authentic life for a Christian, then, is in this ‘being there for others.’ The goal of the Christian life isn't to become ‘religious but a new life in existence for others.”
Because Jesus lived entirely for others, we, too, live for others. We live in Jesus and Jesus lives in and through us. We live for others even if it comes at great personal cost. As Jesus is the one for others, so we are too! How can we help someone? How can we be helpful today toward the people we encounter every day?
First, by changing our position. Jesus continually humbled himself for the sake of others and switched places with people in the lowliest of positions. By doing so like Jesus, we can elevate the importance of the person we are serving. Second, take time to listen attentively. We don’t know what is best for others. It takes time to get to know a person with a listening ear. The simple act of listening is a powerful way to serve. Third, recognize we cannot solve all the problems that people have. But simply being there for them is enough and the rest will be taken care of by God. Lastly, allow us to be served, too. We sometimes misunderstand that we serve others. Actually, we are served by serving others. Let us be humble enough to let others serve us. In the end we are all weak, fragile and imperfect, in need of God’s mercy, too.
Bonhoeffer's famous and often repeated question is still valid: Who is Jesus Christ for me today? Let us reflect on his poem written in his prison cell before he died. Click the song and listen and reflect the content of his hymn.
1.Surrounded by such true and gentle powers,
so wondrously consoled and without fear,
thus will I spend with you these final hours
and then together enter a new year.
2. The worries of the old year still torment us.
We`re troubled still by long and wicked days.
Oh Lord, give our frightened souls the healing,
for which you’re chastened us in many ways.
3. Warm and bright be our candles' flame today,
since into gloom you brought a gleaming light,
and lead again us, if you will, together!
We know it: you are beaming in the night.
By gentle powers lovingly surrounded
with patience we’ll endure, let come what may.
God is with us at night and in the morning
and certainly, on every future day.