Famous Last Words
“Useless, useless,” these were the last words of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin President Abraham Lincoln on April 26, 1865. After he was caught hiding in a barn, refusing to surrender peacefully and attempting to fire upon U.S. soldiers, as he lay dying from a gun shot he asked for his hands to be raised to his face and said, “useless, useless.”
“This is the end - for me the beginning of life.” In contrast, these were the last words of one of my personal heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He these words just before he was to be hanged by piano wire on April 9th 1945 at Flossenburg Nazi Concentration Camp, just two weeks before U.S. 97th Infantry Division liberated the camp and three weeks before the Soviet’s captured Berlin. Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard. The Nazi Concentration Camp doctor who witnessed the execution would later write, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Simply put, my question is this, which of the two could you relate to? John Wilkes Booth, “useless, useless.” Is this how you would define your life at this point? Not that you haven’t accomplished good things in your life, but what defines your life up to this point, your family, what you do on the weekends, career, or maybe your love for the Steelers? Or would you relate to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived boldly for God even in the face of his own death and never compromised his faith. Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Real life and real living is not being defined by what one does as a career, their hobbies, or even families, though they are very important, it is simply a daily relationship with Jesus.