Saturday, July 10, 2010

Faith and Costly Grace - Do You Have Them?

How strong is your faith?

Is it strong enough that you could confidently make a decision to leave a job to return to your home, knowing that you might never be able to leave that home ever again?

Is it strong enough that you would willingly take a course of action in a certain situation that you knew could in all likelihood end with your death?

Having just completed the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and read with great interest how this simple, unassuming pastor, theologian and martyr dealt with these very same issues, these questions have been on my mind quite a bit. Much of my contemplation of his life has centered on trying to put myself in his shoes to see how I would react.

While visiting and studying in New York City in the late 1930s (his second visit there during that decade), Bonhoeffer - against the advice and pleading of many of his close friends - gave up what would have been a safe and secure teaching position in the United States to return home to Germany and confront Hitler's tyranny from the front lines. In the early 1940s, he joined a conspiracy of high ranking military officers, aristocrats, ministers and other other opponents in an effort to assassinate Hitler (culminating in the July 20, 1944 attempt). In both of these instances - indeed, throughout much of his life between 1932 and 1945 - Bonhoeffer acted out of principle and love for his country, but even more out of a sense that what he referred to as "cheap grace" would not be enough.

"Cheap grace," as Bonhoeffer writes in his book Discipleship, "is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." Bonhoeffer's objective for himself and for all mankind was "costly grace," which as he writes "is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him."

To say that Bonhoeffer in the living of his life sold all his goods, plucked out his own eye, selfed all that he had, left his nets and followed Christ would be a tremendous understatement. But he did so with trust in God and by living out his faith through his actions - and in so doing, achieved the "costly grace" to which he was trying to lead others. He returned to Germany when it was safer to remain, and he became involved in a plot that would end his life when he could have remained on the sidelines - but in both instances, I strongly believe he did so seeing not the hangman's noose, but the cross.

So again, I ask - of you and of myself - how strong is your faith? Could I do in similar circumstances what Bonhoeffer did, and give up safety and security for a route which could end all things for me?

I honestly can't say (but know that God knows), and that is one of the struggles with my own faith. But it wouldn't necessarily be the end, as Bonhoeffer stated not long before he died: "This the end; for me, the beginning of life."


Patry Francis said...

I read and was inspired by Discipleship several years ago, and occasionally I take it out and dip in again.

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of the biography. The questions you raise are important, and they feel timely.

Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patry Francis said...

Sorry for the repeat comment. Blogger is messing with me tonight.