When Is Indecision Loveless and Sinful? (A Lesson from Bonhoeffer)

Have you ever been paralyzed with indecision? I have. It is not a good trait of leadership.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer breathed the air of crisis most of his adult life. This would eventually make the issue of decisiveness a matter of life and death. And even before that moment it was an issue of love.

Everywhere Bonhoeffer looked in the Europe of 1934 he saw Christian indecisiveness. The “deutsche Christen,” the global ecumenical movement — everyone but Hitler. Nazism’s strangle hold on the church in Germany was almost complete, and no one seemed willing to act.

Bonhoeffer and his friends soon would. A “Confessing Church” would emerge free from the coercions of the Third Reich. A “Barmen Declaration” would be published. But for now Bonhoeffer pleaded for action.

On April 7, 1934, he wrote a letter to Henry Louis Henriod, the Swiss theologian who headed the ecumenical  World Alliance. He pled for support for the pastors and Christians in Germany who knew (to their peril) their church was no longer a church. Here we learn a lesson about the perils of indecision. Bonhoeffer wrote:

A decision must be made at some point, and it’s no good waiting indefinitely for a sign from heaven that will solve the difficulty without further trouble. Even the ecumenical movement has to make up its mind and is therefore subject to error, like everything human.

But to procrastinate and prevaricate simply because you’re afraid of erring, when others — I mean our brethren in Germany — must make infinitely more difficult decisions every day, seems to me almost to run counter to love.

To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love. (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010], 218)

Every pastor, every parent, every leader of any ministry should think and pray earnestly over that last sentence.