I’ve started reading Seize the Day – with Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Ringma. It’s a book of daily devotionals. Each day has a scripture reference, a quote from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a paragraph by Mr. Ringma relating to the quotation, and a prayer or thought for the day. I got a late start so I’m trying to catch up. Today I read the January 10th entry. Cheap Grace. Here is part of the Bonhoeffer quote:
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”
That’s from The Cost of Discipleship. I guess I’ve always had a suspicion that cheap grace was a term some people use to squelch any joy we may find in the unbelievable gift of new life in Christ. I think grace does need to stand on its own. I believe we need to spend time thinking about it, marveling at the free gift of God’s grace.
But I got something else from this today. Charles Ringma said this:
“God’s gift of new life in Jesus Christ is not a right that we can claim. It is gift that we may receive. Christ’s gift of life came at the cost of death. The maintenance of that new life does not come easily and cheaply either.”
Say you had a rich uncle who gave you a new Corvette. No, a new Mustang, a Cobra Mustang. That snake emblem on the front fenders and the grille. No cute stripes or paint job on this one. No shiny wheels. This one is businesslike. You turn the key and the engine springs to life, burbling expectantly. You put it into gear and you feel the tension in every body panel and bolt and nut. What a gift!
A few months pass, maybe a year, and your rich uncle happens by. Your car is dirty, really dirty. The left rear tire is half flat. The hood latch is popped. The driver’s window is halfway down. As he sits there a sparrow lands on the top of the window with some straw in his beak. He pauses then flits into the interior.
Would you treat a car like that? Would you treat a gift like that? Not me. I wouldn’t let sparrows nest in it. I wouldn’t want birds to even fly over it. I would wash and wax it and check the tire pressure every Saturday. I would change the oil regularly. I would change filters when the manual said to. That car would be my pride, my joy.
My rich uncle paid a lot for that car. I should not treat it frivolously. Of course my rich uncle is, well, rich. He probably didn’t even miss the money.
But the price of grace was more than you or I can imagine. What do we do with it? Do we let birds nest in it? Let the pressure go down? Let it get dirty? Neglect it’s maintenance? When we devalue the gift we are devaluing the giver.