by Chris Monroe
As a young German man, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was aware that National Socialism was an attempt to make history happen on its own, without God. He therefore, in 1933 denounced the system that made the Fuhrer its god and idol, and became a leader of the underground confessional church in Germany during World War II. Eventually he became involved in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler as was executed at the concentration camp at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer is perhaps best known for his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship. Within its pages, he describes “cheap grace” as a type of faith that does not necessarily lead to actions, because it does not demand a changed heart. "Cheap grace", he says, means
“grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian conception of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
This is NOT a popular topic. We LOVE to talk about grace but get nervous and maybe even offended when the idea of "cheap grace" is introduced. WHY is that? Is it because of the past abuses of "legalism" within the church, or is it because we just can't muster the courage to honestly face the consequences of our sin? Who wouldn't favor the idea of limitless unmerrited favor from God?
But it's hard to discard the perspective and wisdom of believers like Bonhoeffer, whose faith was tested in the fires of persecution and adversity (something few of us can really understand). I often think that our American brand of Christianity has become far too "comfy cozy". Maybe our comfort is driving our theology. Hmmm.
Chris Monroe is a Methodist Pastor