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Grace: Free, but Costly


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a leading German theologian who broke ranks with the state church in Germany because Nazism came to control its decisions and ideology. As a result, and with many others, he founded the Confessing Church in Germany. Bonhoeffer was barred from teaching in the Universities, prohibited from public speaking and writing, and eventually imprisoned. He was executed at the extermination camp in Flossenburg on April 9, 1945 at the age of thirty-nine just days before the allies liberated the camp.

Bonhoeffer paid a tremendous price for his faith. It cost him his livelihood, his freedom and ultimately his life. The grace of God, as he conceived it, was costly. It was not cheap.

In 1937, Bonhoeffer was able to publish a little book on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) entitled The Cost of Discipleship. The implicit polemic of this book was that the state church had accepted a cheap grace. It had given into the worldly culture instead of transforming it. It had accepted "churchianity" rather than real discipleship. In Bonhoeffer's words, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition" (p. 42).

Grace cost God the life of his Son. It is also costly to us. It demands our obedience in a life of discipleship. This is a discipleship that engages the world as salt and light. It is a discipleship that lives in the world for service and ministry to others. It is a discipleship that calls us to follow Christ into the world to serve the world (John 17:15-18). It is costly grace.

Grace is God's unmerited love. It is favor bestowed when wrath is owed. But the bestowal of that grace calls us to a costly discipleship in the world. Grace does not come cheap. It cost God, and it costs us our own lives in self-denial. "If anyone desires to follow me," Jesus said, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily" (Luke 9:23). Grace demands our life-long service--it demands a price from us. While we preach the majesty and glory of grace at Ross Road, we also proclaim the cost of that grace in our lives.


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