Friday, May 31, 2013

The Cost of Free

Lately, I've been studying the life and thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor whose view on faith and grace incited his participation in the conspiratorial efforts to assassinate Hitler during the Second World War. Of particular interest to me is the distinction he draws between costly grace - a view of discipleship that demands identification with Jesus both in His suffering and in His resurrection - and cheap grace - a spurious knockoff. In the words of Bonhoeffer:
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. 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, living and incarnate.
In glaring contrast lies costly grace which Bonhoeffer describes in the following manner:
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.
In a culture that is inclined toward cheap grace, my tendency is to think we need to make some qualifiers that make grace more costly. But, I was reminded last Thursday that qualifiers (read "rules") are never the best path to understand the paradox of costly grace. Larissa, a girl from our discipleship group, was expressing her sentiments about the group. Her words were the following: "Discipleship has allowed me to see the worth of the cross." Bear in mind that all we have done in this group is lift up the worth of Jesus. She arrived at the cost on her own. Thus, the equilibrium achieved through the paradox of costly grace is not achieved by the laborious juxtaposition of these two concepts. Rather, it is achieved through a life of simple submission to the worth of Jesus. 

Larissa's life is a testament to this. She serves in her church with little regard for recognition. Her questions about the faith are simple and practical. Her worship communicates a depth of relationship that goes beyond our Thursday night discussions. Her life encourages me that God has not cheapened the cost of discipleship nor altered the essence of His grace. Such paradoxes can only find their home in the "mystery of divine personality." 

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