Monday 16 November 2009

Bonhoeffer's Words For A Pastor's Wife

bonhoeffer Jim Graham reminded us in his blog today that yesterday was the anniversary of the ordination in 1931, of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Back in the early 1980's, Bob wrote his dissertation on DB, and as I typed it up I got to read a lot of stuff written by and about this amazing man. And I mean typed - in those pre-PC days it was all sheets of A4 in the typewriter, tapping away with my right hand, whilst my left arm cradled a new baby. Then Bob would get home, proof-read and edit the pages - and I would re-type the corrected stuff the next day. No cut-n-paste, or 'save changes to...'!

Whilst imprisoned by the Nazis, DB wrote a wedding day sermon for his niece, Renate, who was marrying another Pastor [DBs best friend and subsequent biographer, Eberhard Bethge] These words challenge me as much today as they did 25 years ago when I first read them...

God gives you Christ as the foundation of your marriage. ‘Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7). In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.

Your home will be a pastor’s home. From it, light and strength will have to go out into many other homes. The pastor undertakes a life of special discipline. The husband must bear alone much that belongs to his ministry, since the ministry is his and must, for the sake of God, be a silent one. So his love for his wife must be all the greater, and he must be all the more concerned to share with her what he may. And as a result the wife will be able to lighten the husband’s burden all the more, stand by his side, give him help. As fallible human beings, how can they live and work in Christ’s community if they do not persevere in constant prayer and forgiveness, if they do not help each other to live as Christians? The right beginning and daily practice are very important indeed.

From the first day of your wedding till the last the rule must be: ‘Welcome one another… for the glory of God’.

That is God’s word for your marriage. Thank Him for it; thank Him for leading you thus far; ask Him to establish your marriage, to confirm it, sanctify it, and preserve it. So your marriage will be ‘for the praise of His glory’


  1. Oh yes, these are very true words. Thank you, Angela.

  2. I'm currently re-reading "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina, a historical novel about Bonhoeffer, and so of course am dipping into Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship at the same time. Which is to say I'm deeply into Bonhoeffer these days and am so happy to see his face on your blog! I'd not read this sermon, which holds true even for those of us not married to pastors! Thanks for sharing.


  3. He was such an incredible man, and an inspiration on so many levels. I hadn't read anything but 'soundbites' from this letter before, so reading what you have posted was very helpful to me. As your friend commented above, you don't have to be married to a pastor to find his words helpful.

  4. Great words.

    My Mum was a secretary in those days of yore; she worked in secretary pools with rows and rows of typists clattering away - clatter, clatter, clatter, ping-whizz.

    I am so grateful for word processors! I remember learning to type on a typewriter, I wasn't too great at it. I seem to remember failing my Pitman typing test a couple of times. But I sailed through word processing.

  5. Yes, Frances and Floss - they are great words for ANY married couple, I think!


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