bonhoeffer on "cheap grace"
I've been reading a lot of Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately, and I find his thoughts about "cheap grace" to be both timely and much-needed in the church today. It's popular right now to talk about our "freedom in Christ," but so often that phrase is merely a convenient smoke screen behind which people hide so that they can indulge in their secret (or not-so-secret) sin. How we need to get back to one central question: Will this please the heart of God? After all, we are not our own, but were bought with a price. And as we read in Romans 14, no freedom is greater than love for our brother. If what we're doing will displease God, misrepresent Him, or cause a brother to stumble, it needs to go. But enough from me. :) Here's Dietrich:
"Luther always looked upon grace as the answer to a sum, an answer which had been arrived at by God, not by man. But his followers then changed the 'answer' into the data for a calculation of their own. That was the root of the trouble. If grace is God's gift of Christian life, then we cannot for a moment dispense with following Christ. But if grace becomes how I choose to live my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this 'grace' to forgive me, for the world after all is justified in principle by grace."
"The Christian life now means nothing more than living in the world and in being no different from the world; it means, in fact, being prohibited for the sake of grace from being different from the world."
"We have gathered like eagles around the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk the poison that has killed the life of following Christ."
"What happened to all those warnings of Luther against preaching the gospel in such a way as to make people feel secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared to the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today?"
"This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our personal spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow Him and had even taken the first few steps along the path of discipleship, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace. Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect that such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, to seduce us to the mediocre level of the world.
"Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace--whereas in fact they had lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works."
"To follow in His steps is something beyond defining. It gives us no intelligible program for a way of life, no goal or ideal to strive after. The disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. The old life is left behind, completely surrendered. Discipleship means Jesus Christ and Him alone ... When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person. The grace of His call bursts all the bonds of legalism."
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship