Dietrich Bonhoeffer is known for his opposition to Hitler ending in his martyrdom and also for great works he published including “Costs of Discipleship”. However, before these events, right after he obtained his doctorate and became eligible for the ministry, he accepted a position in Barcelona Spain for one year. There he had opportunity to work with persons who were poor and downtrodden. These included persons whose businesses had failed, vagabonds, victims of poverty and crime, and even bona fide criminals, many who were truly desperate individuals. This contrasted with his privileged upbringing back in Germany.
Through such experiences, Bonhoeffer awoke to the plight of the poor and outcast, which soon became an important theme in his life and theology. He wrote in a letter to a friend:
“Every day I am getting to know people, at any rate their circumstances, and sometimes one is able to see through their stories into themselves – and at the same time one thing continues to impress me: here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of “the Christian world”; people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages and small sins – all in all they are people who feel homeless in both senses, and who begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness – real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace.”
Although we all responsible for our sins and the problems it brings into our lives, Psalm 34:18 says that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I believe people like the ones Bonhoeffer encountered that are broken by their sin are much closer to being reached by the Gospel (closer to grace) than many in the Church who are self-satisfied with themselves and may not even understand their need of a Savior.