A Call to Costly Grace | Sojourners

A Call to Costly Grace

"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. ... Grace without price; grace without cost!" -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Bonhoeffer's classic coinage "cheap grace" is as descriptive of the church in Nixon's America as it was then of the church in Hitler's Germany. The astronomical statistics of U.S. destruction in Indochina parallel or surpass similar statistics of German destruction in Europe. While dropping death and destruction in Vietnam, we die at home: our institutions are cancerous with corruption; our cities rot with poverty, injustice and violence; our culture is glutted from the ambrosia of Mammon, the pagan god of materialism; our land is polluted with industrial waste and impoverished by limitless greed; and our nation is infested with racism and ideological nationalism.

The Body of Christ in America, instead of diagnosing these diseases and embodying the alternative of life in Jesus Christ, shares society's sicknesses. Christian businessmen are those who tithe their padded incomes. Christian politicians are those who attend an occasional prayer breakfast. Christian soldiers are those who pray for safety before bombing missions. As long as following Christ is defined mystically and "spiritually" the ethical distinction between the Christian and his culture will be microscopic. Hitler reportedly encouraged the German clergy to preach "The pure gospel." Faith without works is not only dead, it is invisible. This is cheap grace.

How can evangelism "flourish" in such a spiritual slum? Have we made grace more marketable by reducing its moral cost? Do we peddle styrofoam crosses? Do we caricature the Great Commission itself with the distortion of a cheap, easy grace?

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