I love shopping for deals. I’m often combing the net (by the likes of eBay or local used listings like Craigslist or Kijiji) to find good deals on items I need. Sometimes, if the offer is good enough I might even buy something I never thought I wanted (and certainly never needed) until I saw it at such a steal. But unfortunately what often comes with a low price tag is a low production value. I’ve bought items on eBay from China for only a dollar or two, only to have them fall apart in a few days. I am also an avid pursuer of “freebies” like those samples they’re always offering at Costco. Do I like beet juice? No way! Will I take a sample from the nice lady at Costco solely on the basis that it’s free? Most certainly.
But I don’t think I’m the only one. I mean, who doesn’t love free things? Most of us tend not to take junk or garbage, regardless of how free it is, but we jump at the chance to win “all expenses paid trips” or “a new car”. I know the odds seem insurmountable, but I always enter those draws because I figure, even with the odds against me, the odds are worse if I don’t enter to begin with, right? Free things are always nice, but how much nicer is it when we receive something for free that we know is not cheap, something expensive and costly? I believe that we’ve all taken for granted something every living soul has freely received; something undoubtedly expensive.
This week I’ve just begun reading through “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. And I recall on some devotional reading I came across an excerpt from one of Bonhoeffer’s books on which he talks about “cheap grace”. He talks about the magnitude of contrast that exists between the grace that Christ dispenses, and the “cheap grace” often found in our churches today.
He writes, “Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner…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.”
Have we cheapened the cost of grace, by being to afraid to condemn sin? Have we encouraged a lack of need of Christ in the forgiveness of our sins? We want to believe so badly that the grace of Jesus covers a multitude of sins, so much so, that we justify our misdeeds and wrong doings, claiming that our actions are of no importance because grace has covered us. I’ve done this, where I knowingly enter into sin with the reasoning that “I’ll just ask for forgiveness later.” God’s grace is the furthest thing from cheap! There is a stark difference between something being free, and something being cheap!
The grace that provides our forgiveness of sins; the grace that redeems us to God; the grace that restores us into relationship with our creator was freely given at the cost of Jesus Christ! Our God literally paid with his life in order to give us this grace. God’s grace is free, but it most certainly was not cheap!
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock. It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it cost God the life of God’s Son․”
So what does this mean for us? How does this affect my relationship with God, and those around me? Costly grace means that we don’t allow ourselves to enter into sin without measuring the consequences of our actions; without first thinking of what the cost to God was. It means that when we sin we don’t justify our sinfulness, but rather justify ourselves, knowing that God hasn’t redeemed our sins, but redeemed us, and calls into a relationship with Him willing to provide us the strength to overcome our temptations, and longing to transform us from the inside out.
Costly grace means that our churches do not excuse sin, but also do not take the place of God and cast judgement on the sinner. It means that we accept everyone as they are, but refuse to allow them to remain unchanged by the power of the gospel and the redemption of Jesus Christ. It means that we become agents of change through the representation of Christ’s holiness exemplified through us. It means that we allow His grace to transform us into disciples, not by name any longer, but rather, and mostly importantly, by our actions.
God help me to accept your costly grace. Help me be renewed in your spirit, and help me to remember that even though I sin, your costly grace has forgiven me and redeemed me into you. Work through me and provide me the strength to overcome my temptations, and reject sin in my life. God help me to be a true disciple, in name, in thought, and in action.