This week I have started to read the book, “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I have only read the introduction and the first chapter, but already I think I am going to want to read these pages again, there is just too much to try and digest in one sitting.
Bonhoeffer begins by contrasting Cheap Grace and Costly Grace. He defines Cheap Grace with the following words:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
In other words, what he is saying is, Cheap Grace requires nothing of the person. No rules, no regulations, make it up as you go along, everyone is okay, there is no sin in the world etc. “Cheap grace means the justification of the sin without the justification of the sinner.”
Some have taken sin right out of the world. The common mantra of the Moral Relativists is that sin does not exist unless someone else gets harmed in the process. Abortion has become okay because we have a legal definition that says the child in the mother’s womb is not a child at all it is just a collection of cells, and other such “stuff” therefore, we can terminate it.
If sin does not exist then there is no reason for people to be sorry for the transgressions of the law. Cheap Grace says there is no law, only the law that we humans define and come up with. “Cheap Grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap Grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves.”
This stands in contrast to Costly Grace, the Grace that we are called to as authentic followers of Jesus Christ.
Costly grace is the gospel which much be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
This is the Grace of True Discipleship it has to cost us something, not in an economic sense, but in a spiritual sense. It is a call to a radical kind of life where we cease to live solely for ourselves, and we live for someone else, and that someone is Jesus Christ. And the following of Jesus Christ requires perfect obedience to the commandments Jesus to love God and to love one’s neighbor.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son… and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Costly Grace will cost us our lives, but it is Grace because it gives us our lives. We are called to follow Christ and His Gospel, and that means that we condemn sin and seek reconciliation and absolution for the times when we transgress. We do not change the law to fit our lifestyle, we change our lifestyle to fit the law!
It is interesting to read these words, written at another time, and find that truth still exists in them today. Bonhoffer was advocating a life that turned from the world. He saw those who called themselves Christians as not being any different from those who lived in the world. Writing of Christians who follow the wide open way of Cheap Grace he said, “The upshot of all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on Sunday morning and go to Church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven.”
It’s as if all we need is the weekly “check in” and the rest of the week we can go about our lives. True discipleship requires a change, a change of mind and a change of heart. We cannot continue to live our lives as if nothing should be changed. We cannot have one life inside the church and one life outside the Church. Discipleship requires that we transform our lives and that we come to the realization that we need to be different, and that difference requires change.
Cheap Grace has done nothing but closed us off to the cost of true discipleship. We think we can have it all, that we can be true followers of Jesus Christ but not change the way we interact in the world. We are called to follow the narrow road that is Jesus Christ, that road of transformation and change, and we cannot do that if we want to remain the same people we are.
We need churches to heed this call and get back to the mission of Jesus Christ. We need churches whose leaders are not afraid to preach the truth of the Gospel and who are not afraid to call sin, sin. We need churches where people are being called to repentance and reconciliation and who are being called to a radical form of life in the Church. We need churches that teach authentic discipleship as has been taught in the church for more than 2,000 years.