Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Economy of Love

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Economy of Love

By Jordan Ballor

On August 12, 1943, months after having been arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned, the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his young fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer:

When I consider the state of the world, the total obscurity enshrouding our personal destiny, and my present imprisonment, our union — if it wasn’t frivolity, which it certainly wasn’t — can only be a token of God’s grace and goodness, which summon us to believe in him. We would have to be blind not to see that.

When Jeremiah said, in his people’s hour of direst need, that “houses and fields [and vineyards] shall again be bought in this land,” it was a token of confidence in the future. That requires faith, and may God grant it to us daily. I don’t mean the faith that flees the world, but the faith that endures in the world and loves and remains true to that world in spite of all the hardships it brings us.

Our marriage must be a ‘yes’ to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.

Here, Bonhoeffer answers a question raised in Episode 2, where we ask, “What is saying ‘yes’ to another person really all about?” For Bonhoeffer, saying “yes” to another person is an affirmation of God’s world and his purposes therein. He invokes the example of Jeremiah, another inspiration for the ongoing theme of exile.

In Jeremiah 32 we read about how, with the Babylonian exile looming, the prophet buys a plot of land and passes along this promise: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”

Marriage is a “yes” to God’s creation, even in the midst of exile, and a “yes” to God’s purposes for the life of the world.

Here’s a clip from the episode, and it is my personal favorite in the series. I commend it to you this Valentine’s Day weekend.