Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free but not cheap

I am rereading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's excellent "The Cost of Discipleship". I began this reread on my journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia for my Uncle's funeral. A little light reading on the plane and before bed time. This great book is a study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Bonhoeffer begins his book with a detailed discussion of grace. He wrote this in Germany in 1936-7 in the days leading up to the second World War. His primary concern was for the renewal of the church. He believed that the church had settled for a "cheap grace". That is an understanding of grace that was essentially "all about me". A grace that "got me saved" but never engaged my will or my transformation. "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 on ourselves." (Page 44 touchstone edition). He argues that the church fell into a double standard where a "maximum obedience," what was expected of monks, martyrs, and other "saints," and a "minimum obedience", what was expected of the rank and file church member, was killing the churches witness and effectiveness. (And, I might add, continues to do so!).

Grace becomes costly (rather than cheap) when it not only brings us to forgiveness but also brings us into obedient alignment with the way that Jesus Christ taught. Who Jesus is is more important than what he says. However, obedience to what he says is the key component to living a life in grace.

I am finding echos of Bonhoeffer's writing in some modern writers like Erwin McManus (see Unstoppable Force or The Barbarian Way) and Rob Bell (Jesus came to Save Christians).

The key component of "Costly Grace" is reorientation of our values and priorities from "what do I get out of it (consumer meism driven religion)" to concern for the poor, the oppressed, the disadvantaged, etc. If we accept this understanding the only logical conclusion is that our American consumer driven religion is the antithesis of biblical Christianity. Lord have mercy and help me change my heart, my priorities, my values, my focus . . .

I will keep reading. . .

Dr. BJ

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I stumbled upon this book about one year into my faith as a 17 year old novice Christian. It scared the living daylights out of me. It also had a profound effect on my early understanding of the faith I had signed up for. "When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die." I don't hear that message very often anymore.