Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.
It is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering that everyone has to experience is the call which summons us away from our attachments to this world. It is the death of the old self in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Those who enter into discipleship enter into Jesus’ death. They turn their living into dying; such has been the case from the very beginning. The cross is not the terrible end of a pious, happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.1)In the earlier English version of The Cost of Discipleship, Fuller translated this famous aphorism as: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The austere German text reads: “Jeder Ruf Christi führt in den Tod.” Literally, that says, “Every call of Christ leads into death.” Whether we, like the first disciples, must leave house and vocation to follow him, or whether, with Luther, we leave the monastery for a secular vocation, in both cases the same death awaits us, namely, death in Jesus Christ, the death of our old self caused by the call of Jesus. Because Jesus’ call brings death to the rich young man, who can only follow Jesus after his own will has died, because Jesus’ every command calls us to die with all our wishes and desires, and because we cannot want our own death, therefore Jesus Christ in his word has to be our death and our life. The call to follow Jesus, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ,2)It is the call to discipleship in the Synoptic Gospels and baptism in Paul. is death and life. The call of Christ and baptism leads Christians into a daily struggle against sin and Satan. Thus, each day, with its temptations by the flesh and the world, brings Jesus Christ’s suffering anew to his disciples. The wounds inflicted this way and the scars a Christian carries away from the struggle are living signs of the community of the cross with Jesus. But there is another suffering and another indignity from which no Christian can be spared. To be sure, Christ’s own suffering is the only suffering that brings reconciliation. But because Christ has suffered for the sin of the world, because the whole burden of guilt fell on him, and because Jesus Christ passes on the fruit of his suffering to those who follow him, temptation and sin fall also onto his disciples. Sin covers the disciples with shame and expels them from the gates of the city like a scapegoat.3)Hebrews 13:12–13; cf. Lev. 16:10, 21–22. So Christians become bearers of sin and guilt for other people. Christians would be broken by the weight if they were not themselves carried by him who bore all sins. Instead, by the power of Christ’s suffering they can overcome the sins they must bear by forgiving them. A Christian becomes a burden-bearer—bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). As Christ bears our burdens, so we are to bear the burden of our sisters and brothers. The law of Christ, which must be fulfilled, is to bear the cross. The burden of a sister or brother, which I have to bear, is not only his or her external fate, manner, and temperament; rather, it is in the deepest sense his or her sin. I cannot bear it except by forgiving it, by the power of Christ’s cross, which I have come to share. In this way Jesus’ call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of forgiveness of sins.4)This refers to Luke 23:34. Jesus on the cross cries out: “Father, forgive them …” Forgiving sins is the Christ-suffering required of his disciples. It is required of all Christians.
Bonhoeffer, D. (2003). Discipleship. (M. Kuske, I. Tödt, G. B. Kelly, & J. D. Godsey, Eds., B. Green & R. Krauss, Trans.) (Vol. 4, pp. 87–88). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
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|1.||↑||In the earlier English version of The Cost of Discipleship, Fuller translated this famous aphorism as: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The austere German text reads: “Jeder Ruf Christi führt in den Tod.” Literally, that says, “Every call of Christ leads into death.”|
|2.||↑||It is the call to discipleship in the Synoptic Gospels and baptism in Paul.|
|3.||↑||Hebrews 13:12–13; cf. Lev. 16:10, 21–22.|
|4.||↑||This refers to Luke 23:34. Jesus on the cross cries out: “Father, forgive them …”|
- Let us delight in the knowledge of Christ crucified, and be often in the thoughts and study of him. Study Christ, not only as living, but dying; not as breathing in our air, but suffering in our stead; know him as a victim, which is the way to know him as a conqueror. Christ as crucified is the great object of faith.
- Theology has two parts: the first, of God; the second, of His works.
- Faith is the master-wheel, it sets all the other graces a-running.
- If God be an incomparable God, then incomparable service and worship is due to him.
- There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.