While supply line shortages continue to disrupt daily life, one product remains abundant: “cheap grace.” In 1937, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer published “The Cost of Discipleship.” In it he distinguishes between two understandings of grace. The first he calls “cheap grace.” He writes: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without the cross… without Jesus Christ.” He contrasts this with “costly grace.” This type of grace, “confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow Him.”
In conversations and news reports, listening sessions and internet posts one type of grace dominates people’s thinking about Jesus: “cheap grace.” They proclaim Christ’s remarkable call to love one another, but at the same time ignore His more demanding teachings. They create a caricature of Jesus who conforms to the mores of the time rather than unchanging truth. You will not find this counterfeit Christ in the pages of scriptures or in the hearts and minds of saints. Often, we discover him when debating controversial teachings of the Church. Words like “inclusion,” “love,” and “acceptance” tumble out with tenuous associations to the words of Jesus.
Many wonder: why are people leaving the faith? The answer is not difficult to surmise: cheap grace is not worth giving one’s life for.
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