Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cheap Grace vs. Costly Grace

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One of the great classics of Christian literature is The Cost of Discipleship, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1937 during the rise of Nazism. It was his choice to stand against it, which led to his martyrdom only months before the liberation of Europe. The ending of the “bread of life” readings in John is Jesus presenting to his followers the cost of discipleship. To take a stand in faith that was to many not palatable.

One of the most quoted parts of the book deals with the distinction which Bonhoeffer makes between “cheap” and ‘costly” grace. But what is “cheap” grace? In Bonhoeffer’s words: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Or, to put it even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations
of forgiveness.” The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship.

In contrast to this is costly grace: “costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Fr. Jim DeBruycker
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