Dietrich Bonhoeffer's remarkable classic, The Cost of Discipleship, was written on the theme of taking up one's cross, denying self and following Christ. Bonhoeffer lived out those words in his life. He spent his final days on earth in a Nazi concentration camp where he was a profound witness for Christ and the camp became his parish as he ministered to the prisoners. He was executed only a few days before the Allies liberated the camp.
I have wondered, from time to time, what it must be like to risk all and make the ultimate sacrifice, pay the final cost for following Christ . . .
I recently read the story of another, who like Bonhoeffer, did the same thing in similar World War II circumstances. The person was Pere Jacques Bunol, a French Carmelite priest. (Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of Bunol on the internet.)
Because he protected the Jews from the Nazis, he was thrown into a concentration camp(s). In a letter to his brother, he said:
If I am shot, rejoice, for I shall have realized my ideal - to give my life for those who suffer.
I recently preached on the idea of creating Pockets of Greatness in our little corners of planet earth. For Bunol, his pocket of greatness was a series of Nazi prison camps.
ELlsberg says of Bunol: "His aim was to build a Christian society within the gates of hell; even if his success extended little further than himself, it was a continuous defiance of the spirit of Nazism."
Wow! Bunol created a pocket of greatness, a Christian society within his own life which then radiated out to the camp around him.
As he neared the end of his life, Bunol said: "At this time we must rejoice in accomplishing God's will to the very end, to give our lives if He demands it; perhaps it is our vocation."
Perhaps God is inviting (to say it politely) or more accurately, summoning and sending us out to create pockets of greatness, goodness, and glory in arms reach of the gates of hell. Perhaps Christ followers are meant to go to some of the scariest, most dangerous, most needy places in our world and be among those living in great darkness. Perhaps our lives are to be a defiance against the powers of this age.
Perhaps our very vocation is to give the years of our life toward this end.
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