Finding, not seeking, is still the goal.

“It is always the case that we can only seek that which we already know.  If I do not really know what I am looking for, I’m not really seeking.  Thus we must already know which God we are looking for before we can really seek him.  If I do not know that, then I drift from place to place, and “seeking” becomes an end in itself, and finding is no longer the main thing.  Thus I can only find when I know what or whom I am seeking.

Now either I know this God whom I am seeking on my own, by my experiences and insights, from nature or history interpreted this way or that-and this means I know God by myself, from my own resources-or I know God by his revelation in his own word.  Either I determine the place where I will find God, or I let God determine the place where he wants to be found.  If I am the one who gets to decide where God will be found, then I will always find a God there, a God who some way or other is the kind of God I am looking for, a God I like, a God appropriate to my own nature and personality.

But if God is the One who says where he will be found, then this will very likely be the place that at first does not at all fit my own nature and character, a place I probably will not like at all.  This place is the cross of Jesus.  And those who want to find God there must take their place under the cross, as demanded by the Sermon on the Mount.  This does not at all correspond to our own nature; it is exactly contrary to it.  But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53!).

In any case this was the understanding of both Jesus and Paul: in the cross of Jesus the Scripture, that is, the Old Testament, is fulfilled.  Thus the whole Bible is permeated by the divine intention of being that word in which God wants to be found by us.  No place that seems pleasant to us, or that at first even seems reasonable to us, but a place in every way strange to us, totally alien to us.  Precisely there is the place God has chosen to meet us.

This is the way I now read the Bible.  I ask of every passage, “What does God have to say to us here?”

Every other place outside the Bible has become too uncertain for me.  I fear that there I will only bump into my own divine look-alike, a reflection of myself.

And I want to say something to you quite personally: since I have learned to read the Bible in this way-which has not been long at all-it becomes more wonderful to me each day.  I read some every morning and evening, often also during the day, and every day I take one text that I keep for the whole week and try to immerse myself in it in order really to hear it.  I know that without this I could no longer truly live.  Even less would I be able to believe.

The only thing left is the decision whether we are willing to trust the word of the Bible or not, whether we are willing to let ourselves be held by it, as by no other word in life or in death.  and, I believe, we can find true joy and peace only when we have made this decision…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letter to Rudiger Schleicher, April 8th, 1936


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