Skip to content

Tribute to Bonhoeffer: A Poem

This tribute to Bonhoeffer was written and performed originally on the anniversary of his death, April 9th.


Cheap grace, the gift that keeps giving
Boundless and free
It justifies continued sinning
For its blessings flow for all eternity

Grace with no corresponding cost
Is easy to acquire
Tempting us our souls to toss
Turning the divine into satire

Extending grace is enticing
It is viewed as compassionate
And so we go on advising
The affirmation of all actions as adequate

After all the boundless foundation of grace
Will every sin surely erase
Judgment is scorned and shame is reprimanded
In this land good deeds are not demanded

The first perversion is hard to identify
For it leaves us feeling inwardly magnified
At ease with our choices…even the worst
Cheap grace feels good, but leaves us accursed

Cheap grace has a cousin
Love is her name
When she enters a discussion
She eliminates shame

She is self-evident
Expressed in a trite tautology
Love is love
Is our modern doxology

This love is free, costing nothing
It has no deep meaning
Expressed in mindless, emotional gushing
It leads the weak into daydreaming

Awaken your soul! Real love is not cheap, certainly not free
It cannot be passed off as simple and cliché
Genuine love costs more than man can perceive
A cost that no one can ever truly pay

Love is love is an easy line
Expressing the emptiness of our time
But simplistic hallmark remarks
Are insufficient to guide wandering, troubled hearts

Abandon cheap love for a better desire
Voluntarily walk into the bitter fire
Seek out a love full of rich, deep meaning
And experience the wealth of your soul’s own redeeming


Only the obedient believe
Your actions reveal your axiom
Do not be deceived
Look at your life as a sum

What do you revile, what brings you shame?
Now observe your daily actions
Are these congruent…are they the same?

Or do your actions diverge from your stated beliefs
Do you confess words you never intend to keep
Observe in reflection what your actions admit
Stare honestly at your soul, are you a hypocrite?

And if your actions reveal a troubling pattern
Fear not, for all humanity has fallen one or twice
From this experience you can learn
To follow what is right

The first step in transforming from charlatan to divine
Is to assess whether your flaw is belief or obedience
For if you obey beliefs that with evil align
Your fundamental problem is mental deviance

Observe your thought, do your beliefs rhyme
With what your conscience says?
If there is dissonance, take the time
To redirect your heart or catechize your mind

To obey is to believe
Yet belief is also obedience
It is an action rejecting deceit
Even when it is expedient

Beliefs transform the mind
Necessary to change human deeds
For you cannot expect the mentally blind
To obey good creeds

Mental clouds and deceptions
Make goodness hard to see
Truth we bend to our perception
To soothe and affirm conflicted feelings

The more beliefs we justify
To fit worldly, hedonistic desires
The harder it is to look ourselves in the eye
Instead, behind false skepticism we hide

Breaking the bonds of earthly slavery
Requires courage and divinely inspired bravery
Left to our own psychological devices
We would never resolve to pay the price

Belief and obedience share a deep connection
Correctly understood they are like a marriage
This does not meet our mental expectations
For obedience to beliefs is often disparaged

Yet observe the souls whose courage inspires
Their minds and hearts are never disconnected
Towards unity of being they aspire
With a singular purpose their beliefs and actions are directed

Thus, only he who believes is obedient
And only he who is obedient believes
Belief and action are interconnected ingredients
In the man who goodness, love, and grace properly perceives


Grace, love, belief, and obedience
Are not commodities, for they have an infinite price
Grace and love are far from lenient
Instead demanding suffering and self-sacrifice

What price must man pay to seek goodness and truth?
At a minimum he must abandon the ignorance of youth
Still there is a range of possible consequence
Depending on the level of society’s godlessness

Each epoch of history brings unique social conditions
Testing humanity’s resolve to pursue truth and beauty
Some are blessed with healthy and happy conditions
While others are called to death as their duty

Even in cultures of contentment and peace
Some unfortunate souls are yoked with pain
Of suffering that never appears to cease
In mortal eyes, the agony may seem to be in vain

But suffering is not senseless or empty
It is a call to the ultimate prize of obedience
Those who answer the call are rewarded with eternal plenty
Even if their lives on earth are painful and tedious

For earth is a temporary space filled with strife
While death is the end, yet the beginning of life.

Originally published on the Voegelin View.