This week's "thoughts" (there are three of them) come once again from one of my favorite Christian authors - - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Writing prior to and during WWII, and martyred by the Nazi's just one month before the war ended, he looked around him at the church-going Germans who claimed the Christian faith, and somewhat of a watered-down allegiance to Christ, but at the very same time endorsed (or turned a blind eye) to the policies and activities of Hitler and the Nazis.
It was in this context that he wrote the quotes below. They are not the musings of an unaffected observer, but the writings of a man who knew that by placing his commitment to Christ above all else, and being critical of Hitler and Nazi policies (even taking steps to oppose them for Jesus' sake) it might cost him his life -- as it eventually did. In this sense he stands as an example of a man who sought to live consistently and fully for Jesus. Enjoy
“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).” (Life Together
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheap wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits... 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…
Costly grace (on the other hand) is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price which the merchant will sell all his goods to attain. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” (The Cost of Discipleship
Cheap grace, we could say, is grace used to keep us from having to live as Jesus calls us to (it's grace used to excuse us from living the Christian life), whereas true grace (or as Bonhoeffer calls it, "costly grace") is grace we need, and must constantly rely upon, in order to even approach living as Jesus calls us to in this world. Cheap grace is grace used to help us escape or excuse our Christian responsibility to seek to live out our faith in this fallen world that often opposes it, true grace is what we are forced to rely upon daily if we are ever to even approach living it out in this age.
And lest we misunderstand, Bonhoeffer is not speaking of perfection in any sense of the word. He is speaking of true faith, honesty and integrity. A faith that truly seeks (by the grace God supplies) to live as Christ calls us to live in the Gospels -- which occasionally (no, often) puts us at odds with the values and priorities of this world.
Which "grace" are you most familiar with? The grace that empowers you to live out the difficult and impossible commands (humanly speaking) that Christ has laid before us, or the "grace" that let's you off the hook so you don't have to even try doing those things that are hard and stretch us far beyond our own human resources? I ask because all of us (myself included) need to do an occasional self-evaluation, lest our cherishing of grace be for all the wrong reasons, and we learn to love it simply because we think it frees us from the need to listen to and obey Jesus (Matt. 7:21 / Luke 6:46).
In the Service of Jesus, Pastor Jeff
(If you are interested, the four session DVD documentary "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas is a powerful and inspirational summary of Bonhoeffer's life and death.)