Dietrich Bonhoeffer: can’t I just be a second-rate Christian?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was 39 years old when he was executed by the Nazis in Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in 1945. He co-founded the Confessing Church in 1934 when the German Church failed to resist Hitler, accepting his choice for Reich Bishop of the Evangelical Church. In effect, the Protestant church became an arm of the Nazi regime, even as some individual pastors and churches resisted. The church also accepted the Aryan paragraph, in which converted Christians were barred from the church. For this Bonhoeffer was not murdered; he was murdered because he was involved in the plot to kill Hitler.
His most well-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, argues against cheap grace.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship. (Discipleship, p 47)
Cheap grace completely, and perhaps intentionally, misunderstands Martin Luther.
When he spoke of grace, Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ. Only so could he speak of grace. Luther had said that grace alone can save. His followers took up his doctrine and repeated it word for word. But they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation of discipleship. (Discipleship, p 53)
The obligation of discipleship is complete. God asks everything of us, including our lives. Bonhoeffer practiced what he preached.
Can’t I just give some of my money away?
In Bonhoeffer’s account, giving everything means just that. In a well-known Biblical story, a rich man goes up to Jesus and says that he has fulfilled the Ten Commandments, what more can he do?
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:21-22)
The man went away sad, I imagine, because he knew he was not going to give his wealth away and follow Jesus. The Ten Commandments are easy compared to that.