Amazing words spoken by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on August 29, 1932 – 90 years ago, but just as pertinent today, as the Russian Orthodox Patriarch and several other Orthodox hierarchs in Russia and elsewhere continue to support and even promote Putin’s illegal and criminal war against Ukraine. Note especially his statement: “The church forsakes obedience whenever it sanctions war.” Anyone who has seen videos of the Cathedral of the Military in Moscow will know that the Russian Church forsook obedience to Christ even before the war! And what about the rest of the Orthodox world? Doesn’t silence mean complicity?
Christ must again become present among us in preaching and sacrament, just as Christ as the crucified one made peace with God and humanity. The crucified Christ is our peace. Christ alone adjures the false gods and the demons. Only before the cross does the world tremble, not before us.
And now the cross places us in the midst of a world that has gone haywire. Christ is not distant from the world or in an otherworldly dimension of our existence. Christ went into the deepest depths of the world; his cross is in the midst of the world. And now this cross of Christ calls forth wrath and judgment upon the world and proclaims peace. Today there should no longer be war—the cross does not want it. One must make a distinction: in the world that has fallen away from God, struggle is inevitable, but there should be no war. War in its present-day form lays waste to God’s creation and obscures the view of revelation. As little as one can justify torture as a means of justice out of the necessity for justice, one can just as little justify war as a means of strife out of the necessity of strife. The church forsakes obedience whenever it sanctions war. The church of Christ stands against war in favor of peace among the peoples, between nations, classes, and races.
However, the church also knows that there is no peace unless justice and truth are preserved. A peace that violates justice and truth is no peace, and the church of Christ must protest against such peace. There can be a peace that is worse than struggle. Yet it must be a struggle out of love for another, a battle that comes from the spirit, not from the flesh.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work: 1931–1932; Vol. 11 of the Complete Works, pages 379–380. Fortress Press, 2012