Grace isn’t Cheap


May 21, 2013 by Will Ray

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  It was a fascinating look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor during pre-Nazi Germany and World War II.  (Yes, there were churches and pastors in Nazi Germany.)  He was executed for his involvement in the resistance against Hitler.

The book shared many of Bonhoeffer’s writings and sermons, and while several stood out to me, none more so than his thoughts on what he calls “cheap grace” in his book The Cost of Discipleship.  

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Grace is a free gift.  No doubt.  You don’t have to work for it, just accept it (see Ephesians 2:6-7).  But, paradoxically, that grace, while free, still actually costs us something – it comes at the expense of our desires, our control, and our death to sin.

We see this belief in “cheap grace” rampant in our North American culture where something like 75% of people call themselves Christians but live however they want.  They want this “cheap grace” – the grace that covers all their sins and faults and mess-ups and doesn’t require that they actually change.

Paul talks about this as well in Romans 6:1-3:

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?

We joined him in his death.  We die out to sin, our old ways.

Friends, extending grace to us didn’t come cheap to Jesus.  He gave up his position as God and gave up his life.  It didn’t come cheap for God – he gave up his Son.

Why, then, should it come at no cost to us?

Bonhoeffer explains “costly grace:”

“Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'” (emphasis mine)

Question: What kind of grace are you living under?

3 thoughts on “Grace isn’t Cheap

  1. Nancy Ray says:

    Good word! Love this post.

    You’ve also convinced me to pick up Bonhoeffer next. We’ll see how long it takes me 🙂

  2. John says:

    Great post, Will. We had a big discussion about this at our small group this week, so the timing is uncanny. I particularly enjoyed your mentioning the paradox of the free gift that demands our response. I’ve recently been thinking that Christianity is a remarkably paradoxical or dichotomous religion (life through death, Jesus is God and man, take up your cross/my yoke is easy, “obedience the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality,” as CS Lewis said), and that is part of why it’s so convincing as ultimate truth.

    • Will Ray says:

      Thanks for sharing, John! Yeah there are so many paradoxical ideas in Christianity; but you’re right, I think that lends itself to the authenticity of it. Questionable on the surface, but upon deeper investigation/understanding you see the depth of truth in it.

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About me…

Youth minister, financial coach and part-time wedding photographer, based in Raleigh, NC

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