I like clothes. I know, it sounds weird coming from a guy. But its true nevertheless. However, although I like clothes and like going to clothing stores, I very seldom buy anything at full-price. I am always in search of a great deal. In fact, I am always looking for aesthetically pleasing clothes at a cheap price—something that doesn’t hurt the pocket book, but that still makes me look good (I know…it sounds vain). Applied to Christianity I cannot help but think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship where he addresses the concept of “cheap grace.”
We, as humans, naturally tend to want something for nothing, including our salvation. When it comes to salvation we would love salvation at a discounted cost. However, if the grace of Jesus was a piece of clothing I don’t know if many people would purchase it because it would never be discounted. You would never see a sign that says 25% off, 50% off, or clearance; you would never receive a coupon in the mail. The clothing (grace) Jesus offers would always be full price—the full price being “it will cost you your life” (see Matt 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-38;10:17-31; Luke 9:23-27; 57-62; Acts 9:15). As Bonhoeffer strongly notes, “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship [following Jesus] is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from grace” (Cost of Discipleship, 51).
Today, let us be reminded of two truths. First, let us be reminded of the cost of discipleship, the cost of following Jesus, the cost of our salvation. The cost—the price tag—is our entire life. It is the great exchange, where Jesus paid the full-price of our sin debt so that we can be fully received and in right relationship with God. Thus, we pay the full price of our pardon from sin by giving, submitting, surrendering our entire lives to our great God, King, and Savior—Jesus.
Second, let us be reminded that cheap grace is like buying cheap clothing or cheap shoes. The reason why it is cheap is that it doesn’t last long. For instance, we have bought three pairs of athletic shoes, at $9.99 a piece, for our son Caleb in the last five months. Every single pair has worn out, faded, and started coming apart in some way. In a similar way, cheap grace doesn’t last very long outwardly. While cheap grace may be an inward thought that Jesus died for me, outwardly it is manifested by a lifestyle contrary to the new nature Jesus instills in us at the moment of our salvation.
On the other hand, extravagant, lavish, costly grace is an inward realization that manifests itself in the outerwear of our lives. Every thought, every action, every decision is filtered through the lens of the gospel, the grace of Jesus in our lives. And at moments they are not, which we will have because we are not fully perfect, we will sense conviction—we will sense a relapse in behavior. With this conviction we will respond through confession and repentance, turning back to our great King and Savior who has shown us and continues to show us great costly grace.
And here’s what we will come to realize when we pay full price for grace, for salvation…we have found the deal of a lifetime! [God may our lives not be marked by cheap grace that costs us nothing, which does not speak of the magnitude and weight of the glory and sacrifice of Jesus, but may they be marked by the extravagant, lavish, costly grace of Jesus and the price that he has required from us, our entire lives.]