The Cost of Discipleship
In 1980 I read a book for the first time called The Cost of Discipleship. The author was a German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I actually chose it because, on the reading list, it was the shortest and cheapest of the books I could choose for theology class! That confession is now done. Dr. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian who, in his mid-thirties, was hung by personal order of Adolf Hitler for a failed assassination attempt. While awaiting execution in Flossburg Prison, Bonhoeffer continued writing and his books were smuggled out and later published by students and former church members. One of those books was an expository study of the Beatitudes entitled, The Cost of Discipleship. The book has several phrases that make it famous now eighty years after its release. The idea of “cheap grace” came from this book. It is, according to its author “Grace without repentance.” Grace, according to Dr. Bonhoeffer, is not free. It’s costly. It cost the Father everything to give it. Cheap grace is no grace at all. I have been fascinated by Bonhoeffer though more for his stand against the ruling party of Germany and against the popular whims of culture that pressured him and other pastors in Germany’s anti-Nazi “Confessing Church.” They would not bow. They would not comply. They would not conform to the world. So they went to prison, ripped from their homes and seminary classrooms and pulpits while preaching. And they took their stand, some even to death. How instructive for our day. And I wonder how long before we will face our Bonhoeffer moment…and I wonder will we stand as he did? Another phrase from the book has always given me pause. For Bonhoeffer it was prophetic. He said “When Jesus calls a man he bids him come and die.” (Luke 9)
What will our Bonhoeffer moment be?