Yesterday was the commemoration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was martyred for his opposition to the Nazis. He considered taking refuge in the United States, where he was teaching, but he returned to Germany to continue his work in the resistance. He was arrested April 5, 1943 and imprisoned in Berlin. Three days later two men came to his cell with a chilling order. “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” He said to a fellow prisoner, “This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.” The next day, April 9th, he was hanged.
In his famous book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer writes, “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.”
We ought to all just pause for a moment and ponder that kind of grace, the costly kind.
Reflect for a moment on the kind we prefer. This, by Wilbur Rees, is more my speed.
I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please—not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love an enemy or pick beets with a migrant; I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.
We can’t all be a Bonhoeffer, and we’re not meant to be. But today we can open ourselves to receive grace. The “cost” of receiving this precious gift is only the laying down of our old lives, the loss that turns out to be our greatest gain. Why—remind me again—why would we not take that “loss” every time?