- After agreeing that the church should be subject to the governing authorities as commanded in Romans 13:1–7, Bonhoeffer then addresses the role of the church in society and says that it is the church’s role to help the state be the state. The state should create an appropriate—therefore, just and moral—atmosphere of “law and order.” If it does not, then the church should prophetically speak to that situation and help the state fulfill its role before God and man.
- He declared that the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society.” He was saying that when a society is constructed in a certain way, according to the desires of the state, and there are victims of that ordering, then the church is called to assist those who are being ground under a wheel of oppression. This is what it means to do good and to love one’s neighbor.
- Bonhoeffer said that the church also “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.”
- He said that the church “is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” Metaxas says that Bonhoeffer was saying that “It is sometimes not enough to help those crushed by the evil actions of a state; at some point the church must directly take action against the state to stop it from perpetrating evil.” There are conditions, though. The spoke must be put into the wheel only “when the church sees its very existence being threatened by the state, and when the state ceases to be the state as defined by God.” -- If the state kept the church from obeying God and engaging in its mission, which was to bring all people together in Christ, then the state/ culture should be opposed and a spoke should even be driven through the wheel of oppression.
With great anguish we state: through us has endless suffering been brought to many peoples and countries. What we have often borne witness to before our congregations, we now declare in the name of the whole Church. We have for many years struggled in the name of Jesus Christ against the spirit which found its terrible expression in the national Socialist regime of tyranny, but we accuse ourselves for not witnessing more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.
We did not fear God above all the powers of men and governments, we did not trust and obey God unconditionally—that is what brought us under the sway of the tempter, that is what cast us into the abyss! That is what gave the demon of inhumanity free rein among us.And now the righteous judgment of our holy God has fallen upon us. Before His judgment seat we are not subject to the verdicts and standards of other human beings who also stand in fear of His judgment and are thrown upon His grace. Before God we are being questioned concerning our own guilt, our great, immeasurable guilt. Before God we cannot excuse ourselves.Before Him there cries out against us all the innocently shed blood, all the blaspheming of the His Holy name and all the inhumanities which occurred in our midst especially against the Jews. If we know ourselves to be innocent—humanly speaking—of participating in the atrocities . . . we yet cannot, before God, escape the great burden of need and guilt which rests upon us.