Dietrich Bonhoeffer at 100
One of the books that has had the greatest and lasting influence on my life as a one seeking to live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in the world is Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I first read it over 20 years ago when a friend gave me his tattered paperback copy of Cost of Discipleship. The opening chapter grabbed my heart and mind and would not let me go. As I read Bonhoeffer’s word again today I must say that they are as true today as they were when they were first written in the midst of struggle against the Nazis just a few years before the beginning of World War II.
I’m speaking of Bonhoeffer’s contrasting of cheap grace and costly grace:
“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.
“Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock.
“It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; its is grace because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to god, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”—and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did, indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.” (Discipleship, pages 44-45)