Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church's inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit.
It is grace without a price, without cost...
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God's love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God's living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.
Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. "Our action is in vain." The world remains world and we remain sinners "even in the best of lives." Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture...to live a different life under grace from that under sin...
Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord's Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18
Questions to Ponder
Why is it that the church so often proclaims and dispenses "cheap grace"?
What happens to the "saltiness" of disciples in a church that "conveys such [cheap] grace upon itself"?
What does it mean to say that cheap grace is "grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ"?
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12
In your journal make a list of all the characteristics of cheap grace that Bonhoeffer identifies.
Do you find any of these characteristics in your own life or in the life of your community of faith? If so, reflect on them in your journal.
Think of the proclamation and practice of your community of faith and pray that they would be free of cheap grace.
Prayer for Today
Lord, you love me with an everlasting love. Deliver me from cheap grace that I may respond to your love with my whole life.
40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.