Christian Balance

“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.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“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.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Bonhoeffer is hard to read. Some of it comes from his Germanic phrasing; but most comes from his understanding and explanation of hard teachings. Grace versus works. Freedom versus servanthood. Cheap versus costly. Fan versus follower.  It seems Christians live on either end of a teeter-totter. It’s comfortable to be down on the ground or up in the air. It’s fun to go up and down. It’s tough to stay even.

Half of my Christian friends are free spirits celebrating their salvation but never doing anything with it. The other half are legalistic bores always pointing out imperfection and piling on rules and adding obligations to lives that used to be free. I’m uncomfortable around both groups. I think both groups are hindered by pride. Some are so prideful that they believe salvation is the ultimate means of control over life. God is their co-pilot around for the times (the many times) they go too far and mess up. They never put him in control. The others discover that grace isn’t just forgiveness but the power to change and they discover a change in their lives and forget that Jesus did it and become boastful, legalistic chest pounders claiming credit for what Jesus did and demanding that others do likewise.

Bonhoeffer offers the path to balance in his description of cheap grace and costly grace. Both end in Jesus. Grace is Jesus, the Incarnation of God. Jesus saves and Jesus changes. Works don’t save and the works in our lives are done by Him for His purposes. If your teeter-totter is down, let Him work. If it’s up, enjoy the ride but quit thinking you did it. The Christian life can be  both joyous and meaningful. Both are simultaneously possible. Don’t show me your works. Don’t flaunt your freedom. Show me your Jesus. He’s all you have worth showing.


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