Monday, May 31, 2010

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Come and Die


I'm grateful to Ben Seal over at Unbreakable Joy for this superb quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, author and martyr. As it is a short post, I hope Ben will forgive me for copying it in full:
The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it, and will not only trample upon the Holy, but also will tear apart those who force it on them. For its own sake, for the sake of the sinner, and for the sake of the community, the Holy is to be protected from cheap surrender. The Gospel is protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty. The key to loose is protected by the key to bind. The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance.
Bonhoeffer's best-known work, The Cost of Discipleship, begins with a call to remember that "Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace." Bonhoeffer was one of those rare men who backed up his words with deeds, choosing to return to Nazi Germany--where he was an outspoken opponent of the regime--on the last scheduled steamer from the US prior to the outbreak of war. Refusing to hide his lamp under a bowl, he was hanged in 1945 for plotting against Hitler.

What do I know of this kind of cost-counting?  Frankly, almost nothing.  My faith costs me shockingly little.  I can barely be bothered to spend a more than few minutes on my knees or in His Word.  I am routinely far more ashamed of the gospel than I can bear to admit, though little more than gentle scorn awaits the gospel's fiercest advocates in our society.  I shudder to contemplate whether His reputation is truly, demonstrably more valuable to me than my own.

If I were to offer a simple but extremely lame excuse for my appalling spiritual vapidity, I might point to my culture.  Western Christianity is comfortable Christianity.  Our challenges are to "make time for God" so that we can "live victoriously" in our suburban neighborhoods.  Don't talk to us about the cost of discipleship ... unless it's tax deductible. 

But as I said, that's just my lame excuse.  The real reason is more elementary ... I'm self-absorbed because I want to be.  My sin isn't just a bad habit, it's a cancer.  I need God's grace more than I can possibly imagine, so I mostly just choose not to imagine. 

One of Bonhoeffer's most profound statements was also one of his simplest:  "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."  Die?  Not now, Lord, I'm busy.  Can it wait until the commercial break?

5 comments:

  1. I seem to be sitting in the cell right next to yours, scribbling the same words onto my wall already filled with the best excuses and honest confessions. There's got to be a way out! Lord, help us to use the key, nay, to 'want' to use it and follow You all the way!
    Great post; keep writing!!

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  2. Bonhoeffer was very much an heir of Luther, as the following quote from McGrath's book on the Theology of the Cross shows: "The Operationes date from a time when Luther's life was widely regarded as being already forfeited. The shadow of the cross darkens the pages of the work, as Luther wrestles with the relationship between the sufferings of Christ upon the cross and those which he himself expected to undergo in the near future. Where was God in all this?" Bonhoeffer was constrained by conscience to place himself in a similar situation, yet he warns in another place that we must not be "continually taking the temperature of our sanctification", and, instead, to humbly accept His grace. He will bring the trials we need to keep us from taking it lightly. (Rm. 8:28)

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  3. Someone else has the same conviction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik-XOVZcwow

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  4. Praise the LORD!!!
    I'm led along these same lines by the LORD. It's time for 'western' Christians to get up out of their 'easy chairs', off their padded A/C'd pews and get into the trenches, where the real Christian battles are being fought!!!

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